Over 18,115 children are suffering from severe and moderate acute malnourishment in Meghalaya, said Minister in-charge Social Welfare Department Kyrmen Shylla on Thursday.
Issuing a statement over the alleged rice procurement scam, Shylla said a special drive was conducted by the state government for the identification and management of severely and moderately acute malnourished children (SAM and MAM) in September, last year.
“Around 1,788 SAM children and 16,327 MAM children were identified as suffering from severe and moderate acute malnourishment,” he said. Shylla also said a recovery rate of 93.85 per cent was achieved among SAM children, while it was 97.53% among MAM children.
This was achieved with intensive interventions of providing nutrition, nutrition counselling, growth monitoring, creating awareness on the benefits of consumption of THR (take home ration) and regular health check-ups in coordination with the Health and Family Welfare Department. Support was also provided through the Community and Rural Development Department.
“The state government along with the pro-active initiatives of districts and blocks is working towards improving the nutritional indicators of the state which has been a cause of concern for a long time,” he added.
Refuting the allegations levelled against the government in the implementation of the supplementary nutrition programme (SNP) under ICDS scheme, Shylla said the seized rice from Boko, Assam, is not the PDS rice meant for general distribution or as relief during the Covid-19 pandemic as alleged.
“This rice was allotted by the Social Welfare Department from FCI to the approved manufacturer of food items under the SNP of the ICDS Scheme, who lifted the allotted quota for the state for processing the same into micronutrient energy dense fortified food and, hence, the allegation of diversion of rice does not arise,” he said.
According to the central government guidelines, state governments should ensure strict implementation of the feeding norms while providing THR under ICDS Scheme which consist of a fine mix of all kinds of ingredients, including the revised intake of proteins and calories as per the nutritional norms as specified in the Schedule II of the National Food Security Act, 2013 and Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2017.
Supplementary nutrition is provided as THR for children who are in the age group of six months to three years, pregnant and lactating mothers. Hot cooked meals are provided to children in the age group of three to six years of age attending anganwadi centres.
Since the beneficiaries of THR are infants and pregnant and lactating mothers, it is to be ensured that there is no compromise in the quality of the foodstuff provided and in consonance with the guidelines, the state government had awarded the supply of THR to approved manufacturers who complied with FSSAI registration, licensing process as laid down by Union government.
He said presently the department has also engaged the services of 203 self-help groups in the procurement and transportation of foodstuff supplied as hot cooked meal under SNP in the anganwadi centres.
Shylla further said the state government is also contemplating to encourage SHGs as manufacturers in the procurement and supply of THR subject to their fulfillment of the eligibility criteria as laid down by the Centre in its letter on January 13, this year.
“It is the state government’s endeavour to promote formation of Self Help Groups at the village level for better economic growth and employment generation. Under POSHAN ABHIYAAN, SHGs are involved in promoting kitchen gardens/backyard poultry in the anganwadi centres as well as in the community level to bring about food security, nutritional diversity and behavioural change in food habits to combat all forms of under-nutrition,” he said.
Meanwhile, the minister also urged the media and the NGOs who have raised these issues to refrain from making any “untrue” statements. “This would only demoralise all those who are working sincerely to improve the conditions of our people,” he said.