Odisha needs to ‘POSHAN’ development imperatives, not votes!

Odisha spent Rs 71 crore under Nutrition Plan for Children. But refused to accept a whopping Rs 151.7 crore from Centre under the POSHAN Scheme

Bhubaneswar: Here is a classic display of how politics is overriding the  development needs in Odisha.

The State under State Plan had spent Rs 71 crore under Nutrition for Children (as per 2016-17 Budget Actuals). But refused to  accept a whopping Rs 151.7 crore from Centre for the period of 2017-19 under the POSHAN Scheme. Because, Odisha has not implemented the programme.

What is POSHAN? It’s an ambitious nutrition mission programme by Centre that visualises malnutrition free India by 2022. In order to achieve the goal, the scheme aims to reduce stunting in identified districts having high malnutrition burden. The scheme’s multi-pronged strategy to eliminate malnutrition is : reducing stunting, anaemia and LBW (low birth weight) babies.

It is not that the indicators in the State are rosy.

Sample this. As per data available with the State Health Department, over 19 per cent children born during the period April – June 2019 are underweight or say LBW babies. But in districts like Nabarangpur and Bargarh, it’s a whopping 32 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively. A total of 11 districts in Odisha have high malnutrition burden in the State. Moreover, as per 2011 census, a total of 13.5 lakh children in 0-6 year age-group are malnourished. The State finished sixth from bottom.

Similarly, in the indicator of anaemia among expectant mothers, the State Health data reveals that during the same period, a total of 20 districts have posted a rise in severe anaemia. The proportion of severe anaemia in State during the period is estimated at 159 per 10,000 expectant mothers. The top high-burden anaemic districts in the State are Kalahandi, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Bolangir and Malkangiri.

Significantly, an analysis reveals that the districts that have higher anaemic proportion, also have high burden of malnourished children.

As the POSHAN is implemented through the anganwadi centres (AWCs) throughout the country, a glance at the state of affairs of AWCs in Odisha underlines how the Central fund under POSHAN is providential for Odisha.

Consider this.  The State has been sanctioned a total of 74, 154 AWCs. But AWCs operational in the State are 72,587.

Moreover, when 40 lakh were availing SNP (Supplementary Nutrition Programme) via AWCs in 2008-09, the number stands at around 39 lakh in 2018-19. This shows nearly 1 lakh beneficiaries have dropped out from SNP in the State. And the drop-out is reported from such high-burden districts.

A break-up of the SNP data further revealed that number of expectant mothers availing SNP has dropped to around 7.8 lakh from over 8 lakh in 2012-13. But data shows SNP was required for around 8.3 lakh expectant mothers during April-June 2019-20.

How POSHAN would have benefitted Odisha? For instance, reports show VHSND (Village Health & Sanitation Day) is not observed in many districts regularly. Under the scheme, Centre provides Rs 19lakh/district for IEC (Information, Education & Communication) activities in the high-load districts. VHSND comes under IEC activities.