India left out women from its largest child nutrition program: Study

  • India’s child nutrition program may have left out women and poor from the benefits under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  • India is home to almost 31% of world’s stunted children with 46.6 million stunted children recorded last year, as per the Global Nutrition Report.
  • The program was particularly lagging in ‘high malnutrition’ states — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
A government-run program to curb undernutrition in India may have left out less educated women and poorest households from accessing benefits of the nutrition program, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Launched in 1975, the program — Integrated Child Development Services — gained momentum in the country from 2006 to 2016. Overall, the program aims to foster children under the age of six years and pregnant and lactating women, providing food, education and healthcare facilities.

With alarming levels of undernutrition in India, the program plays a key role — in 2015 it served an estimated 102 million women and children in the country.

However, the study has shown that the program, initially aimed at disadvantaged castes and tribes, lagged in high malnutrition states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Worryingly, it revealed that pregnant women with low education received far fewer services compared to other people.

The study’s authors point to logistical challenges to reach these communities.

"Even in better performing states, exclusion of poor could be due to challenges of reaching remote areas, despite attempts to close district-wise equity gaps or local challenges of exclusion within villages due to caste or location-based exclusion," research co-author Kalyani Raghunathan said in a statement to IANS.

The study found improvement in the program’s services in four key areas — supplementary food, health and nutrition education, health check-up, and child-specific services. Childhood supplementary food service growth saw a jump of eight percentage points from 2006 to 2016. The program covered more than 50% in the central and southern states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

India is home to almost 31% of world’s stunted children at 46.6 million stunted children recorded last year, as per Global Nutrition Report.

The study was the first to do an in-depth analysis on a national scale, study researcher Arindam Nandi reportedly said.

With inputs from IANS

See also:
India has over 46 million stunted children — that's more than the population of Australia and Sri Lanka put together


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