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Child malnutrition still a cause of concern in Vellore district: UNICEF

Special Correspondent
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C.R. Saraswathi, Chairperson of Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, speaking at a district- level seminar in Vellore.— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
C.R. Saraswathi, Chairperson of Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, speaking at a district- level seminar in Vellore.— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

 The Centre has identified Vellore as one of the high priority districts for taking action to achieve the millennium development goals (MDG) by 2015, according to Satheesh Kumar, Chief Officer, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

He was speaking at a district-level seminar on ‘Improvement of Child Survival and Development’ organised by the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board (TNSWB) and UNICEF at the Collectorate here on Saturday.

Mr. Kumar said that the progress of South Indian States, especially Tamil Nadu in the achievement of MDG, was appreciated at an international meeting convened by the Central government, Tamil Nadu government, UNICEF and other international organisations at Mamallapuram in February. While overall reduction in child mortality and maternal mortality was good in Tamil Nadu, it was realised that several districts had to contribute more towards achievement of the goals.

While immunisation coverage in Tamil Nadu was 85 %, it was 75 % in Vellore district. Child malnutrition in Vellore district was also a cause of concern. It was found that a lot had to be done in the area of eliminating the practice of open defecation in the district. Another finding was that while more than 90% of deliveries were taking place in hospitals, the percentage of newborns exclusively breastfed up to six months was only 56. If there had been proper follow-up of newborns, the percentage of exclusively breastfed children should also have been 90. Besides, only 50% of the children born to HIV positive mothers were tested for HIV. Testing had to be done to all children born to HIV mothers to save the children and protect their health lifelong.

Mr. Kumar said that the Health Department alone cannot be held responsible for improvement and maintenance of the health of children.

The Departments of Water Supply and the Integrated Child Development Services have to ensure supply of safe drinking water and proper nutrition to the children as these factors were vital for maintaining the health of children. It has therefore been decided to bring about the inter-sectoral collaboration among governmental organisations, academic institutions, medical colleges and non-governmental organisations to achieve the MDG, he said.

C.R. Saraswathi, Chairperson of TNSWB, requested UNICEF to join hands with the Board in conducting cancer awareness camps and to facilitate early detection and treatment of the disease.

She urged women to take proper care of their health to ensure the health and well-being of the family. Men should help their spouses in ensuring the well-being of the family. Referring to the emergence of child marriages in society, she appealed to parents to avoid child marriages in their families and bring to the notice of the government proposed child marriages in their neighbourhood so that the government could prevent them.

P. Sankar, Collector, presided. P. Elango, Joint Secretary, TNSWB; P. Gomathi, District Social Welfare; Vandhana Bhatia of UNICEF; and Poongodi, deputy director, Health Services, Vellore, spoke.

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