In order to counter severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children in urban areas, a new ready-to-eat energy-dense nutritious food (EDNF) will be distributed.
- The Maharashtra government has already approved the distribution of the new EDNF and it is awaiting approval from the Central government.
- The new EDNF is a paste made of milk powder, peanut, oil, sugar, and other nutrition-rich ingredients.
- The paste will be provided to children with SAM as a medical intervention during meals in Anganwadis.
- Among 22 districts of Maharashtra, there is a high incidence of stunting.
- SAM is high in Gadchiroli and Beed districts.
- In trial and rural areas, malnutrition is due to inadequate food intake or lack of food, but in urban areas, lack of proper micronutrient-rich food and high intake of junk food are the reasons for malnutrition.
- The government provides take-home ration to children between six months and three years, SAM affected children, pregnant and lactating women through anganwadis.
- Also, for children aged between three and six years, a morning snack and a hot cooked meal is provided at the anganwadi.
WHO on Ready-to-Use Food
- WHO says that the introduction of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) revolutionised severe malnutrition treatment.
- It says that providing foods that are safe to use at home have ensured rapid weight gain in SAM children.
- A study conducted in the Dharavi area in 2019 also claimed that RUTF led two rapid weight gain in SAM children than Standard Nutrition Therapy.
Claims of Nexus
- But not all are accepting the introduction of RUTF.
- Activists claim that these initiatives are an outcome of the nexus between the food industry and the government.
- They say that these initiatives do not take into consideration the taste preferences of the children.
- Also, they say that some children get addicted to the paste and consume nothing else.
- A study conducted in 2018 in one block each in Amaravati and Nandurbar concluded this.
- It was also found that some children complained of diarrhoea and vomiting after consuming the paste.
Though India is one of the largest countries in the world with children affected by SAM, a judicious decision must be taken amid the claims and counter-claims regarding the introduction of an EDNF as a treatment.