New Delhi: The government will soon issue guidelines on supplementary nutrition to tackle malnutrition among children, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said.

The new guidelines will supersede all existing ones, Gandhi said at the national conference “Mission Mode to address Under-Nutrition" on Tuesday.

“After the resounding success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme, the women and child development ministry is now targeting malnutrition. For this, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of supplementary nutrition and also make the delivery system efficient," said Gandhi.

“We must provide 1,000 calories to women and 600 calories to children under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The focus of the entire programme should be to administer nutrition rather than feeding beneficiaries by giving “Nutrient Dense Food". A change in policy is required to implement this," she said. The government is aiming to eliminate malnutrition in children by 2022.

The conference was attended by district collectors, deputy commissioners, district magistrates and district-level officers of health & family welfare, nutrition, drinking water & sanitation departments in the 113 high burden districts, besides principal secretaries, and secretaries of all states and union territories.

“The country has succeeded in eliminating several difficult problems like chickenpox and polio; it should not be difficult for the country to overcome the problem of malnutrition. The deputy commissioners/district collectors along with other district level functionaries will have to take responsibility for the mission to eliminate malnutrition by 2022," said Virendra Kumar, minister of state for women and child development.

The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. As per World Bank data, 44% of children under the age of 5 in India are underweight, while 72% of infants have anaemia.

The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) released this year by ministry of health & family welfare for 15 states showed that 37% of children under the age of five in these states is stunted.

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