Over 55% didn’t get nutrition under ICDS in 159 Jharkhand blocks: Survey

In the first six months in Jharkhand, more than 55% of the surveyed 18, 288 beneficiaries of Supplementary Nutrition given to the most vulnerable under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)—did not receive it by the state even once. The report came out Monday during ‘State Level Public Hearing and Policy Dialogue’ in implementation of ICDS services under Women and Child Development Department conducted by Right to Food Campaign along with various other organizations.

Under the ICDS Scheme children between the age of 6 months to 6 years and pregnant and lactating women are provided Supplementary Nutrition, Pre-school non-formal education, Nutrition and health education, Immunization, Health check-up and referral services through Anganwadi services as well as through Health Department. Supplementary Nutrition includes Take Home Ration (THR), Hot Cooked Meal and morning snacks and holds importance for many vulnerable households as it impacts the nutritional outcome of the children. Jharkhand specifically is important as every second child in the state is stunted and underweight and every third child is affected by stunting and every 10th child is affected from severe wasting and around 70% children are anemic, as per National Family Health Survey-4 data.

The ICDS survey in Jharkhand covered a total of 8818 families in 159 blocks. It covered 7809 children beneficiaries from 6 months to 3 years age group, 6560 in the age group of 3 years to 6 years and 4459 pregnant women and lactating families. Out of the surveyed families, 96.8% i.e. 8525 families found to be registered with Anganwadi Services.

In Jharkhand, 11.26 lakh children are in the age group six months to three years and 15.78 lakh children in three to six years of age group, and 7.21 lakh pregnant and lactating mothers which is supposed to be covered by 38, 432 Anganwadi Centers.

Ashrafi Nand Prasad of the RTF campaign said that 10, 371 beneficiaries did not receive any ration. He added : “The minimum cost per beneficiary is Rs 8 per day for hot cooked meals or THR and it has to be given for 25 days in a month i.e 200 per person per month. More than 35 lakh beneficiaries are supposed to be covered in a year which comes out to Rs 70 crore into 12 months which is 840 crore. Now half yearly it should cost around Rs 420 crore…Extrapolating our survey findings to the entire state, i.e more than 55% were not given ration even once in the first six months—it seems that the nutritional supplement worth more than 200 crore were not given to the beneficiaries.”

Last year in December, the state government had given the cabinet nod for contracting ‘able and experienced manufacturer’ for the supply of regular THR foods. The manufacturer will give ‘Micronutrient Fortified and Energy Food’ to state’s 38432 Anganwadi Centres. “It will be done through a tender process with transparency. THR will have nutritional sweet, salt Daliya,” former Cabinet Secretary Ajoy Kumar had said.

Interestingly, during Raghubar Das government’s regime, private companies’ involvement in supply of THR—or Take Home Food—was cancelled and it was given to Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society—under Rural Development Department–who later trained SHGs for this purpose. However, sources in the JSLPS said that the government is again planning to give it to the SHGs. “However, the amount spent on SHGs is in lakhs. They helped the government, but the process of reimbursement is very long. The government needs to allocate a revolving fund like NREGA for implementation of this scheme rather than running it on reimbursement mode.”

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