Even as Union Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee announced in the Union Budget on Friday a Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Augmentation Programme, experts at a workshop here discussed how poor maternal and child nutrition during the first 1,000 days — from the time of conception till the baby is two years old — is cause for grave concern in low-income families in India.

Those participating in the workshop, organised by the Nestle Nutrition Institute, emphasised the importance of the 1,000-day window period.

According to the UNICEF report released in February, one in three newborns in India is born underweight because of maternal under-nutrition. India is among the 50 worst-performing countries in under-five morality rate. As much as 43 p.c. of children under five are underweight here, with 16 p.c. severely undernourished.

“Seventy per cent of the child's brain develops during pregnancy, so the quality of food that the expectant mother consumes must be a primary consideration,” said Anura V. Kurpad, Head, Division of Nutrition, St. John's Research Institute. Though India has seen a decline in maternal and infant mortality, the pace is slow and falls short of Millennium Development Goal, one of the reasons being under-nutrition, said Hans Van Goudoever, Chairman of the Department of Paediatrics at an institute in Amsterdam.

One in three newborns in India is born underweight, says UNICEF report