DCPCR asks Delhi govt for plans to deal with child malnutrition

New Delhi: A latest report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), saying that up to 3 lakh children could die in India over the next six months due to disrupted health services and a surge in child-wasting, has raised a serious concern in Delhi. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has now written to the Delhi Government and municipal bodies here asking them to share their plan of action to provide nutritious food to poor children.

Wasting, or low weight for height, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. It is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease.

The letter, written to Directors (Education) of all four municipal bodies and the Delhi Government said, "As per records appearing in print and mass media, schools are not likely to be opened soon. There is a possibility of opening schools in the month of July- August. But the children enrolled in primary and elementary classes are not likely to be allowed to attend their classes."

It read, "Keeping in limpo the program of Mid-Day meals for such a long time has aggravated, the problem of malnutrition amongst children of the school-going age. In the given conditions, the Department will have to plan some way out to provide nutritious food to children which may predominantly comprise rations, ready-to-eat items, etc." The Commission further advised them that some ways and means should be worked out to meet the issues that have arisen on account of closure of schools for such a long time. "The plan of action for meeting this challenge may kindly be shared with this Commission preferably in 15 days," it further read.

UNICEF, in their report, quoted a newly published study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Lancet Global Health Journal which said, due to reductions in routine health service coverage levels, disruption in life-saving immunisation activities and an increase in child-wasting, in next six months, up to 300,000 children could die in India alone.

As per UNICEF, "In India, around 20 million children under five years of age are suffering from wasting, over 40 million children are chronically malnourished and more than half of the Indian women aged 14-49 years are anaemic."

Ranjana Prasad, member DCPCR said that they went through the report and it was very concerning. She said, "Recently children living in North East Delhi were affected by riots and now COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we have reached out to 3,000-4,000 children there and provided them with essential commodities. There are areas in Delhi where awareness about health-hygiene is lacking and we are covering them as well. Due to the pandemic, many jobs come to an abrupt halt due to which many families are not able to feed their children with nutritious foods so it is important that all agencies should gear up to protect these children," she said.

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