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Food security: Names of 81% of undernourished children "missing" from ration cards in progressive Gujarat

Counterview Desk
In severest-ever indictment of the the implementation of the right to food dictum in “progressive Gujarat”, a new survey, carried out by the Anna Suraksha Abhikar Abhiyaan (ASAA), a consortium of 18 NGOs focused on right to food, has found that over 81% of severely undernourished and 73.5% of moderately undernourished children of Gujarat do not have their names on their families’ ration cards. “This failure results in both the family and the child being unable to avail of their full entitlements of grain”, a report, based on the survey, whose results were released in Ahmedabad, said. In all, as many as 2,230 children were surveyed across the state.
The survey was carried out in as many as 20 districts, including seven high priority talukas (HPTs), identified by the Government of Gujarat as those which are most vulnerable in terms of nutrition, three urban slums identified by partner organizations as being food insecure, as well as several villages in non-HPTs, that are home to seasonal migrant communities and de-notified tribes. The survey results suggest that in contrast to state data claiming drastic reduction of malnutrition over the last decade to 27%, the rate of child malnutrition in Gujarat is 43.9%.
Pointing out that amongst tribal children the malnutrition rate is 55% (25% severely malnourished and 30% moderately malnourished), the survey, carried out between January 1 and January 17, 2014, finds that among SC children, the rate of severe undernourishment is 19%, and the overall undernourishment is 46%. As for OBC children, severe undernourishment rate is 18% percent and overall undernourishment is 48%. As against this, 9% of general category children are severely undernourished, and overall malnutrition rate is 24%.
The report, “Extent of Malnutrition among Women and Children in Gujarat and Access to Food and Cash Entitlements provisioned in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013”, prepared on the basis of the survey, says, “Among newborn children, 0 to 6 months, 15.8% were found to be severely malnourished, implying severe undernourishment of the mother as well and ensuring problems in the future growth and development of the child. Additionally, 20% of children ages 6 months to 3 years, and 18.9% of children ages 3 to 5 years, were found to be severely malnourished, soaring above state claims.”
The report says, “An essential factor of addressing such rates of malnutrition lay in the successful identification and monitoring of at-risk and malnourished children using the Mamata card, a booklet where growth monitoring entries can be tracked, and risks can be identified by the local anganwadi. The report says that “over 35% of severely undernourished children, and 42% of moderately undernourished children, do not have Mamata card.” It calls it a “government failure to monitor as a contributing factor to the persistence of malnutrition.”
The report further says, there were “significant discrepancies” between malnourishment data provided by local anganwadi centres, and the rates of malnutrition identified by field workers using the same measuring devices. “When looking collectively at the rates of severely and moderately undernourished children, the difference between anganwadi data and study data amounts to 7.7%, providing evidence of the failure to properly identify at-risk and malnourished children within anganwadi centres, and devastating effects for the unidentified child”, it adds.
The report regrets, “68.1% of mothers with a severely malnourished child did not know that their child was malnourished, and 80.3% of mothers with a moderately malnourished child were unaware as well.” It adds, “While appropriate monitoring and identification of malnourished children is critical, such process is a futile gesture if it is not followed by targeted services and support. 84.3% of severely undernourished children, and 85.2% of moderately undernourished children did not receive a referral for nutritional counseling or targeted services by the angandwadi centre, implying both the failure to monitor and identify malnourished children, as well as the failure to follow up.”

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