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Full findings of UNICEF survey yet to be released

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Congress asks Maneka Gandhi to explain exclusion of Gujarat.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has not published the full findings of a UNICEF-supported Rapid Survey of Children (RSOC) even after one year of its completion. The original survey reportedly showed that child immunisation coverage in Gujarat dipped under the Narendra Modi government, but the government has contested the findings.

The delay in release has resulted in a political storm, with Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, shooting off a letter to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi raising uncomfortable questions on exclusion of survey data on Gujarat.

In a letter dated June 30, Mr. Patel, a Rajya Sabha member, wrote to Ms. Maneka Gandhi that he found it surprising that “the Ministry chose to publish only a part of this report but excluded the States such as Gujarat, which reports chronic malnutrition and low child immunization.” The letter further raises the question as to how the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute managed to publish its Global Nutrition Report using RSOC 2013-14 findings, when the survey data was not even released to the national audience.

In response to queries, the Ministry sources told The Hindu that there were two surveys commissioned on children and nutrition, one by the Health Ministry and the other by the WCD with technical support from UNICEF. Since both the surveys threw up different results, the Ministries were confused as to which one to take as final and decided to review the methodology of the commissioned surveys. Sources in the WCD Ministry further added that an inter-ministerial committee comprising members of the NITI Aayog, WCD, Ministry of Programme Implementation and Health Ministry is studying the state-wide variance of data between the two surveys and will publish the full results after eliminating inconsistencies.

Key findings

UNICEF’s Head of Nutrition Saba Mebrahtu said that though the survey had hogged attention for only its immunisation-related findings, there was much in it to celebrate as well. “There has been a substantial reduction in child under nutrition by 9 percentage points compared to the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 3 in 2005-06.

However, the findings pertaining to teenage girl child nutrition are worrying. “There is very little improvement in nutrition levels of girls in the 15-18 age group since NFHS 3. While 10 years ago, teenage girl under nutrition level stood at 44.3 per cent, RSOC 2013-14 showed it stands at 44.7,” she said, adding that this lack of improvement is across the board.

Publication of the latest RSOC data is significant as most health policy workers are still depending on the decade-old NFHS 3 survey to design their programmes.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:36:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/full-findings-of-unicef-survey-yet-to-be-released/article7389932.ece

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