The cabinet has approved the setting up of a National Nutrition Mission (NNM) with a three-year budget of Rs9,046.17 crore, to rein in malnourishment and stunted growth.

Under the mission, the government is targeting a reduction of 2% a year in stunting, undernutrition and low birthweight among 100 million people. It aims to reduce anaemia among young children, women and adolescent girls by 3% a year. The programme would be undertaken in a phased manner, covering 315 districts in 2017-18, 235 districts in 2018-19 and the remaining districts in 2019-20.

Minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi said NNM will address three aspects—the food that should be given to rein in stunting, undernourishment, low birthweight and anaemia; the delivery system required for it; and monitoring of the entire process.

“PM feels to tackle these questions and undernutrition problem in the country, various ministries need to work in convergence and not silos and NNM will be a platform (to do so)," she said.

Health and family welfare minister J.P. Nadda said macro-nutrition was being monitored by the women and child development ministry while his ministry was concentrating on micro-nutrition and infections. NNM will ensure convergence, and lead to better results.

The government, in a statement, said the implementation strategy for NNM would be based on intense monitoring and a convergence action plan up to the grass-roots level.

The women and child development ministry’s secretary Rakesh Srivastava said NNM would be implemented using information technology as the basic tool; workers at anganwadis (women and child development centres) would be given smartphones and their supervisors smart tablets to monitor daily activities and compile reports. The move will be a deviation from the old practice of maintaining registers and will also help to reduce pilferage.

Under NNM, the ministries of women and child development, health and family welfare, and water and sanitation will work together. The mission will form an apex body that would fix targets and monitor, supervise and guide nutrition-related interventions across the ministries.

The mission would include several components like an ICT (information and communications technology)-based real-time monitoring system, incentivizing of states and Union territories to meet their targets, social audits, and setting up of nutrition resource centres.

“It is very important to invest in nutrition in India because balanced diet and healthy nutrition plays a pivotal role in overall development of women and children," said Shikha Khanna, senior dietician and head of the department (nutrition and dietetics) at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. “Healthy women deliver healthy children and nurture a good society, and healthy and nourished children are the country’s future. We have a long way to go in terms of nutrition of women and children."

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