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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: After a long dithering for three years (2017-2019), Odisha government  has finally decided to implement POSHAN Abhiyaan in State from the current year.

The POSHAN Abhiyaan was launched in 2017 by the Modi Government, and as 2019 elections were looming large, politics took centrestage and the Naveen Patnaik -led BJD government refused to implement the nutritional scheme in the State. Even, the State government then had lampooned the scheme by saying that Odisha has better nutritional schemes.

In the ensuing tug-of -war, the shocking development has been in the span of 2017-19, Odisha didn't utilise a single penny from a substantive sum of Rs 151.7 crore released by the Centre.

Significantly, one of the main feature of POSHAN scheme is to set up Nutritional Resources Centres (NRCs) in districts having high prevalence of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). And non-implementation by Odisha hits NRCs the hard way.

How hard the NRCs are hit in the State is evidenced by fact that when a non-high focus State like Gujarat had a total of 124 NRCs, Odisha despite being a high-focus State had a mere 45.

In comparison, high-focus States like MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have 315, 62 and 68 NRCs, respectively. Only around 16 NRCs are functional in as many as nine high-burden western Odisha districts.

Not only setting up NRCs, State has a pallid record to show in enrolment also.

On an average, since 2013, the enrolment in Odisha has been around 150. In contrast, MP, which has been the leading State in country in NRC implementation, on an average recorded enrolment of a whopping 315 children per NRC. Neighbouring Chhattisgarh also has a better figure to show with 190 enrolments annually.

Malnutrition is acute in Odisha. Many study reports paint a gloomy picture.

A recent National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) analysis shows a high of 18 districts (Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Balangir, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Bargarh, Boudh, Subarnapur, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundeargarh, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj) have more than half of the child populace under-five in stunting category. The proportion is 40-50 per cent in four other districts. On an average, at least one-third of children under five years of age in 29 of 30 districts are in the grip of malnutrition, reveals the NRHM analysis.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4, 2015-16 has also revealed a rise in proportion of 'severely-hit' children below five years in the last decade by a whopping 1.2 points to touch 6.4 per cent vis-a-vis 5.2 per cent in 2005-06.

It is in this context, NRCs are considered as game-changing interventions even by UN organisations like Unicef. But for lack of funds, the growth of NRC in Odisha gets throttled.

Odisha has high U-5 mortality rate. And SAM is the major cause. In order to rein in the high U-5 rate in many high-focus states, including Odisha,  POSHAN Abhiyaan was launched with an objective to banish malnutrition from the country by year 2022. But politics took it into hostage for three long-years. However, development has the last laugh.

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