Bhubaneswar: Nutritional food security will go a long way in our fight against malnutrition. Despite the state government’s efforts and especially having a special nutrition budget, Odisha has stood far behind other states. Civil Society Members believe that Dal, Edible Oil and Iodised Salt, which is known to add nutritional value in the food, should be included under the State Food Security Scheme and be provided through Public Distribution System so that we can reach far more goal in countering malnutrition in the state and this will help poor families who cannot afford to buy this for their everyday use.
Odisha has several schemes to boost nutrition but the approach must be focused so that no one is left out, the members urged.
What’s the challenge Odisha is facing vis-a-vis nutrition
In many ways, COVID 19 induced food insecurity as people lost their jobs and incomes have reduced which will lead to an increase in malnutrition.
We know that in March and April many services were affected, but some such as take-home ration delivery did take place because it is a legal entitlement under the National Food Security Act, 2013 and state food security scheme of Odisha government. There was quick adaptability and there was door-to-door delivery of take-home ration, but at the same time, there were people on the move who could not be reached.
The Sample Registration Survey (SRS) 2016 reported 8.3 lakh live births in Odisha. More than 26 thousand newborns did not survive their first twenty-eight days of life, and more than 41 thousand did not live to celebrate their fifth birthday. Malnutrition of mother and child is a primary contributing factor for these untimely deaths.
No doubt, the state has done improvement on the percentage of malnourished children under -5 in the state shrunk to 34.4% (NFHS-4) from 40.7% (NFHS-3), the tribal communities still suffer the most. Almost half of the under-5 children from tribal communities in Odisha are underweight, and the stunting rate among them is 46%. Malnutrition is as high as 51.8% in Malkangiri district according to the report of NFHS-4, while other districts are way behind the state average in their performance.
Nutritional food security must be seen through the lens of the government’s PDS
NGO Atmashakti Trust and its allies Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha on “Consumption of Dal and its impact on nutritional food security in Odisha” which covered more than 10000 families in 16 districts, those are dominated by tribals, Dalits and other marginalised communities. The report findings of the study reveal that “as the government gave 1 kg of Dal per month to each family as a covid elevation measure, 99.9% people said this benefited them. 63% of those families said, this dal lasting between 1 to 5 days while 27% of families reportedly consumed this Dal within 6 to 10 days. It emphasizes that people need Dal from the government as a nutrition supplement looking at their consumption trend. Access to and availability of Dal is also a challenge for people, especially in remote areas, which is driving against the nutritional food intake among them.
PRI members also feel that the government should continue Dal in PDS and include edible oil and Iodised salt in its regular supply under State Food Security Scheme which will benefit the people who cannot afford to consume it. Hundreds of them have written a letter to the Chief Minister to consider their demand.
Sarpanch of Korukudupa Gram Panchayat in Kandhamal district Pukuru Majhi said that the government must include Dal, Edible Oil and the iodized salt under PDS as this will help the needy and poor to consume food that has nutritional supplements.
Sarpanch Majhi has written a letter to the Chief Minister in this regard and hopes that the government will take immediate steps to include it in the PDS. Similarly, Premashila Nayak, a ward member of Bruhabadi village of Raikia block has written a letter to the Chief Minister, urging the need to ensure nutritional food security for all.
“Nutrition has a strong correlation to health and is integral to growth and development. We, therefore, urge the government to take back its decision of discontinuing Dal under PDS from November as this will help the state fight’s against malnutrition in a big way and contribute to achieving key Sustainable Development Goals such as reduction of hunger and improvement in nutrition outcomes ”, said Mr Anjan Pradhan, Convener, Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.
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