As per the ‘State of the World‘s Children 2015’ report published by United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the level of children who are underweight, stunted and wasted are 44, 48 and 20 per cent respectively. However, this Report is based on 2005-06 data of National Family Health Survey-III conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Further, in the Rapid Survey of Children (RSoC) conducted by Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) in association with UNICEF in 2013-14, these figures are 29.4, 38.7 and 15.1 per cent respectively.
The prevalence of malnourished children in India is thus one of the highest in the world. The Indian government accords high priority to the issue of malnutrition and is implementing several schemes/programmes of different ministries and departments to address one or other aspects related to nutrition.
MoWCD is administering the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a centrally sponsored scheme, which aims at holistic development of children below six years of age and pregnant women and lactating mothers by providing a package of six services comprising – supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services. The scheme is implemented through the states.
The ICDS Scheme started in 1975 was universalized in 2008-09 preceded by rapid expansion in the years 2005-06 to 2008-09 so as to cover all habitations, including scheduled caste/ scheduled tribe and minority population, across the country with the approval of 7076 ICDS Projects and 14 lakh Anganwadi Centres. Against 7076 sanctioned projects and 14 lakh sanctioned Anganwadi Centres, 7067 projects and 13.49 lakh Anganwdi Centres were operational by the end of 2015. The services are currently being provided to 10.23 crore beneficiaries of which 8.37 crore are children under age of six years and 1.93 crore are pregnant women and lactating mothers. Pre-school education is provided to 3.54 crore children of 3-6 years (1.78 crore boys and 1.75 crore girls).
In order to improve the performance of ICDS, the government has introduced five-tier monitoring and review mechanism at different levels (national/state/district/block/anganwadi) by involving public representatives for monitoring the status of Anganwadi Centres.
In order to address various programmatic, management and institutional gaps and to meet administrative and operational challenges, the Indian government approved the strengthening and restructuring of ICDS Scheme in September 2012 with an over-all budget allocation of Rs.1,23,580 crore during 12th Five Year Plan.
The goal of ICDS Mission is to attain three main outcomes namely – prevent and reduce young child under-nutrition (per cent underweight children 0-3 years) by 10 percentage point; enhance early development and learning outcomes in all children 0-6 years of age; and improve care and nutrition of girls and women and reduce anemia prevalence in young children, girls and women by one fifth.
The Ministry is also implementing Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) Sabla and Indira Gandhi Matratav Sahyog Yojna (IGMSY) as direct targeted interventions to address the issue of malnutrition.