CHANDIGARH—Malnutrition among schoolchildren has been a serious concern for the central as well as state government. The nutritional status of children is monitored through National surveys conducted periodically by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The recently conducted Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS)-2016-18 captures the data on the nutritional status of school-going children. As per this survey, 21.9 percent of children are stunted and 35.2 percent are underweight in the age group of 5 – 9 years and 24.1 percent of children are underweight in the age group of 10-19 years.
Further, under the Anemia Mukt Bharat strategy implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM) provides services for the prevention and treatment of anemia in children (5-9 years) and adolescent girls and boys (10-19 years). Under this scheme, prophylactic iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation, periodic deworming, testing and treatment of anemia using digital methods and point of care treatment are done through the school platform along with addressing non-nutritional causes of anemia in endemic pockets with special focus on malaria, hemoglobinopathies and fluorosis.
Presently, as it is not possible to provide hot cooked meal under the prevailing circumstances (COVID-19), States/UTs have been advised to provide Food Security Allowance (FSA) comprising of food grains, pulses, oil, etc., (equivalent to cooking cost) to all eligible children until such time their schools are closed due to aforesaid pandemic.
In order to improve the nutritional status of school-going children, the National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools is implemented by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, wherein one mid-day meal is provided to children as per the nutritional standards provide in the Schedule-II of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, due to challenges in service delivery of IFA supplementation in school going children and adolescents, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued guidance notes to all the States/UTs regarding “Enabling Delivery of Essential Health Services during the COVID 19 Outbreak” and “Provision of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health plus Nutrition services during and post COVID-19 pandemic” for a continuation of service delivery amid COVID-19 pandemic.
As per these guidance notes, the States/UTs have been advised to ensure home distribution of IFA to the target age groups including Children 5-9 years and adolescents 10-19 years in the containment zones. In non-containment zones, it has been advised to undertake distribution of IFA supplements through the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days in a staggered manner while ensuring all the personal protective measures and physical distancing norms by the frontline workers, i.e., ASHAs/ANMs/AWWs.
By YS.Rana: Principal Correspondent.