Pandemic-deepened malnutrition in Bihar presents far-from-perfect picture

Children are at an increased risk because their nutritional needs are not being met as families cope with loss of incomes. (Photo: PTI)

To mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday, which the BJP extended to a 14-day celebration under Seva Aur Samarpan Abhiyan (service and dedication mission), Bihar’s industries minister Shahnawaz Hussain decided to distribute food among the poor. As the shutterbugs closed in on the ‘seva’, Hussain asked people with ‘big bellies’ to step back and those with ‘smaller ones’ to step forward. Picture perfect. Bihar’s far-from-perfect pictures, however, abound in people with big bellies, swollen, in fact, from kwashiorkor - a severe form of malnutrition.)

The Covid-19 pandemic, it now appears, has added to the list of those who would have to step out of Hussain’s frame in Bihar.

A joint study undertaken in 2020 by Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Bihar finance department, to understand the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 pandemic on children in Bihar pointed that children and women, especially those pregnant or lactating, are at an increased risk because their nutritional needs are not being met as families cope with loss of incomes.

“Bihar government’s decisions like providing cash assistance in lieu of mid-day meals and facilities like ‘take home ration’ from ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) and additional ration provisions from PDS are all helpful but these initiatives have been inadequate,” the study noted.

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