1 in Every 3 Children in Mumbai Municipal Schools Malnourished
The malnutrition was revealed during routine health checks conducted in BMC schools.
Despite an extensive mid-day meal programme, a third of children in schools run by India’s richest municipal corporation in India’s richest city, are malnourished, according to a new report that quotes the corporation’s own data, obtained through a right-to-information request.
Malnutrition has increased more than four times in Mumbai, from 8 percent in 2013-14 to 34 percent in 2015-16, as the city leaves a rising proportion of its mid-day meal budget unused, according to the report released on 30 May. The report was released by Praja Foundation, a nonprofit organisation focussed on governance.
The malnutrition was revealed during routine health checks conducted in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) schools.
We cannot compare Mumbai to Shanghai if many wards in Mumbai have malnutrition rates worse than sub-saharan Africa.Nitai Mehta, Founder and Managing Trustee, Praja Foundation
Malnutrition and diet are now the largest risk factors globally for disease and represent losses upto 10 percent in gross domestic product (GDP), greater than the loss sustained during the 2008-10 global financial crisis, according to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report.
Up to 36 percent (3,83,485 ) of more than 1 million children in Mumbai are enrolled in government schools, according to 2015-16 District Information System for Education (DISE) and BMC figures.
Of the children in BMC schools, almost half (189,809) were screened by the school health department and 64,681 were found to be malnourished in 2015-16. Officials estimated that there were are 130,680 malnourished children in BMC schools.
Students were malnourished even though 83 percent and 95.1 percent of government and aided schools in Mumbai city and its suburbs, respectively, had a mid-day meal programme, according to the DISE.
“This raises serious questions on the efficacy of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) and other schemes aimed at improving the nutrition of children,” said Milind Mhaske, Project Coordinator, Praja Foundation.
If children are malnourished in their early years of schooling, then it means that the gap in the schemes need to be identified.
More Girls Malnourished Than Boys
More girls (35 percent) were malnourished than boys (33 percent) in 2015-16. The corresponding percentages in 2014-15 were 26 percent girls and 27 percent boys and in 2013-14, 9 percent boys and 6 percent boys.
The highest proportion of malnourished children in 2015-16 among municipal schools was found in grade I – 42 percent for boys and 43 percent for girls. Most join schools from anganwadis (courtyard shelters or creches), run under the ICDS, which is one of the world’s largest child-health programmes.
In 2015-16, 25.5 percent of children under the age of five years were stunted (less height for age) and 25.8 percent were wasted (less weight for height) in Mumbai City and 21.3 percent were stunted and 20.3 percent wasted in the Mumbai Suburban District, according to the latest health data available from the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16. The BMC malnourishment data reveals that the health of students does not improve as they grow up.
The rise of malnutrition among students at BMC schools is correlated with a rise in diarrhoea cases reported to Mumbai’s health system, said the authors of the Praja Foundation study. Diarrhoea cases increased from 99,838 in 2011-12 to 119,342 in 2015-16, according to a white paper on health published in Praja in 2016. Also, 29 percent of diarrhoea deaths in the year 2015 were children younger than 14.
An estimated 73 percent of malnourished children in 2015-16 studied between grades I to V, higher than lower in grades. Over a year to 2015-16, malnourished students in grade I increased from 3,123 to 10,802 – a rise of 246 percent. The number of malnourished children in grade V increased from 2,591 to 10,562 – a rise of 308 percent.
Mankhurd and Govandi: Areas with Most Malnourished School Children
The poor, eastern suburbs of Mankhurd and Govandi – areas packed with slums –reported the highest number (15,038) of malnourished children in 2015-16. Together, these areas comprise what is called the M/E ward, which has Mumbai’s lowest human development index (0.05), according to the 2009 Mumbai Human Development Report.
M/E ward is followed by H/E (Santacruz) and L (Kurla), with 9,100 and 6,586 malnourished children, respectively.
No Shortage of Money, Budgets Remain Under-Utilised
Despite the growing malnutrition rates among its children, there does not appear to be a shortage of money to address the problem. The budget estimates for the mid-day meal programme rose 10.3 percent from Rs 29 crore to Rs 32 crore for grade I to V, and 18 percent from Rs 33 crore to Rs 39 crore for grades VI to VIII, between 2013-14 to 2015-16.
But the proportion of the budget used for grades I to V fell from 81 percent to 65 percent, and from 83 percent to 64 percent for grades VI to VIII between 2013-14 to 2015-16.
(The author is a principal correspondent with India Spend. You can follow him on twitter @swagata_y. This article was first published on IndiaSpend.)
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