Months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called malnourishment among children a national shame, the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) has now written to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories asking them to get “serious about fighting malnourishment especially among the children and women”.

WCD secretary Prem Narain said: “We have issued written instructions on Tuesday to all senior officials concerned and various Ministries to ensure that they contribute positively in the fight against this great challenge that the country faces today. There is high prevalence of malnutrition, especially amongst the children and women in different parts of the country. Time has come to create a movement so as to improve awareness about nutrition at the individual, household and community level.”

He added that the country celebrates National Nutrition Week (September 1-7) which is an annual nutrition event of great importance. Mr. Narain said: “The theme of the week for this year is ‘nutrition awareness key to a healthy nation’ and we want our partners and various stakeholders to create awareness about this critical issue and promote appropriate diet during adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, infancy and young childhood.”

According to figures released by the United Nations Children’s Fund, one in every three malnourished child in the world is from India and 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year – four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses including diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia.

Said Mr. Narain: “Series of convergent and well co-ordinated actions are required to be undertaken to address this problem. Since most of the direct and indirect programmes on nutrition are implemented by the States/UTs so it is important that they take a lead and carry forward the theme by organising special programmes for promoting nutrition of the children by involving all concerned.”

WCD, Integrated Child Development Services, joint secretary Dr. Shreeranjan said: “In addition to the work that is being done by the States and various ministries the Food and Nutrition Board of this Ministry through its 43 community food and nutrition extension units located in 29 States/UTs will also be co-ordinating with departments concerned of State Governments, national institutions, NGOs and will organise State-level workshops, orientation training of field personnel, awareness generation camps, community meeting during the week on the specified theme. The State Governments and UT administrations have also been asked to submit a short report on programmes undertaken.”

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