Millions of school children from poor families who get fed in schools by the government will get a nutritional candy that will help make up for their iron and vitamin deficiencies.
The nutrition candy is a low cost option to iron pills, which have not found wide acceptance. Besides being more attractive and acceptable to children and even adults, the candy has proved more effective in improving iron deficiency-induced anaemia. The nutrition candy however should be seen as a supplement, not a replacement for nutritional food, according to health officials.
Children have a five-year window of opportunity when they can develop well. Lack of proper nutrition has impact on their body and mental growth for the rest of their life. It becomes very important to therefore prevent diseases associated with nutritional deficiencies in children.
The body needs only small quantities of nutrients like iron, folic acid and vitamins, they are essential for the proper development of the body, brain and the immune system. A child daily requires 28-30 milligram of iron while the amount needed for pregnant women is 40 milligram.
Anaemia in children below two years of age affects the brain development irreversibly. Lack of Vitamin A on the other hand not only leads to blindness in severe cases but also impairs the immune system.
Women and children are the most affected and these deficiencies damage health, impair work capacity, impact reproduction and reduce intelligence. Vitamin and mineral deficiency will cost the Indian economy Rs.2.77 trillion over the next 10 years in lost human potential and health care costs.
The government has been providing a lemon favour candy with seven milligram of iron to nearly 5 million children in Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh
under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Eight more states are likely to introduce the candy which contains Vitamin A and C, iron and folic acid. Ideal for children over six years of age, this will be given to 14 million poor children. The candy is also being assessed for Vitamin A status, the results of which would be released next week.
The launch of the nutrition candy is expected to could reduce child mortality in the country by about 25 percent. Experts claim it is a cost effective solution in a country where a large number of children suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Indo-Asian News Service