Need a new effort

The Nutrition Unit under the Child Health Division is planning a ‘Nutrition Week’ from December 25 to 31 across the country. The campaign, based on the theme “Nutritious Food for Healthy Growth and Development of Children,” aims to help reduce the country’s appalling infant mortality rate (64 per 1000 live births) by raising awareness regarding the importance of having nutritious foods. Various programmes focused on breast-feeding and reducing malnutrition will be organised in district health offices, primary health centres and schools, and will be supported by the NGOs and INGOs working in the field. The campaign also aims to achieve the millennium development goals of reducing infant and child mortality by 2015.

However, even after half a century of child health-related policies, the government still has its campaigns on the cards. Though this is the first time the state has focused particularly in the nutrition aspect of child health, other government-sponsored nutrition programmes have been continuing now for at least 15 years. But malnutrition is still rampant and continues unabated. One study conducted by Nepal Nutrition Status Survey in 1975 had revealed that over 50 per cent of school-going children were malnourished then, and the present situation is no different. Also, stunting in children of age group six to 59 months has been reduced by just 15.3 per cent over the last two decades. Malnutrition still causes 60 per cent of the deaths among children under five years.

On the other hand, mother’s milk lacks the required iron needs for the babies and women remain ignorant about the need to feed their children of over six months with solid diets. But stress on breast-feeding will not achieve anything if little attention is paid to the mother’s diet in the first place, which is vital for the growth of the children. This demands a drastic change in the social scenario and a new effort that calls for nutrition for mothers as well.