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Malnutrition is the most urgent problem: Dr Manmohan Singh
Saturday, 27 November, 2010, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh presided over the first meeting of the Prime Minister's National Council on India's Nutrition Challenges on November 24.

Singh termed the problem of malnutrition a complex one caused by multiple factors and with long term consequences on the growth, development and well being of our nation. "In spite of the impressive growth of our economy and a number of programmes aimed at meeting the nutritional challenge, the levels of under-nutrition continue to remain unacceptably high."

Further the rates of reduction in under-nutrition over time have been disappointingly low. He said this was "simply unacceptable." The meeting was attended by ministers Sharad Pawar, Kapil Sibal, CP Joshi, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Sachin Pilot, and several government officials.

The issues were discussed in detail. A number of valuable suggestions were made which will be kept in view as the concerned ministries take follow up action. It was noted that the government had several programmes, which seek to tackle individual determinants of malnutrition. However, coordinated policy action is required for the individual sectors to work together.

The following important points emerged:

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) requires strengthening and restructuring. The ministry of women & child development will take steps in this direction, with special focus on pregnant and lactating mothers and children under three.

The ICDS also needs to forge institutional convergence with national rural health mission and total situation campaign particularly at the district and village level. It needs to provide flexibility for local action and empower mothers in particular and the community in general to have a stake in the programme.

There is a need to launch a nationwide campaign, coordinated by the ministry of women & child development, in consultation with the Planning Commission, experts, civil society organisations working in this field, against malnutrition so as to address issues of status of women, the care of pregnant mothers and children under two, breastfeeding, and the importance of balanced nutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation.

It was also agreed that the ministries that deal with health, drinking water supply and sanitation, school education, agriculture and food & public distribution will bring strong nutrition focus to their programme.

The PM expected the ministry of women & child development and the Planning Commission to review the progress in the implementation of the decisions of the meeting after three months.
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