Research has conclusively shown that malnutrition during pregnancy causes the child to have increased risk of future diseases, physical retardation, and reduced cognitive abilities. The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) to reduce incidents of malnourishment in the country by at least two percent per annum.
The NNM will be headed by the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, who will chair the National Council on Nutrition. The decision was recently taken at a Cabinet meeting.
The mission includes mapping of various schemes, robust convergence, ICT-based real-time monitoring system, incentives for states meeting targets and eliminating registers used by anganwadi workers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, and Health Minister J. P. Nadda said at a press conference here on Friday.
With malnourishment a major challenge for India, the NNM will work to reduce under-nutrition, anaemia among young children, women and adolescent girls and reduce low birth weight by at least 2 percent, 3 percent and 2 percent per annum respectively.
It will also target to reduce stunting in children below the age of 5 (38.4 percent at present) to 25 percent by the end of 2022.
More than 10 crore people are expected to be benefited by the programme, which will cover all districts in a phased manner - 315 districts in 2017-18, 235 districts in 2018-19, and the remaining districts in 2019-20.
Jaitley said Rs 9,046.17 crore has been sanctioned for NNM till March 31, 2020.
"As percentage of undernourished, stunted children is quite high in India, there will be inter-ministerial coordination and the objective will be that the first 1,000 days of a child, including nine months of pregnancy, should be taken care of.
" A coordination structure has been created from the ministry to sub-division levels to monitor the mission," Jaitley said.
Maneka Gandhi said insufficient attention had been paid so far to malnutrition, though systems have been put in place such as anganwadis, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a great deal of interest in the structuring of the mission.
Nadda said NNM is a big programme of convergence and it will be result-oriented.
"Group and performance-based incentive will be given to AAA -- ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist), ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) and Anganwadi workers," he said.
Women and Child Development Ministry Secretary Rakesh Srivastava said details of the beneficiaries -- such as take-home ration, immunisation, height and weight -- which were being noted down in 11 registers will now be done in a smart phone.
He said 50 per cent beneficiaries of existing schemes have already been seeded to Aadhaar numbers, which will help in monitoring.
He said Aadhaar registrations of children below the age of five will be done and bio-metrics taken once they turn five.
He said there will be six-tier monitoring from block to the national levels.
Smart phones will be given to anganwadi workers, and tablets to supervisors.
Ministers from Finance, Health, WCD, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Food Ministries, and five Chief Ministers will be made members of the Mission.
A key role in guiding the Mission will be played by the NITI Aayog's Member on Health and Nutrition.
The NNM will monitor, supervise, fix targets and guide nutrition-related interventions across the ministries and submit a report to the Prime Minister every six months.
The proposal includes measuring the height of children at anganwadi centres. As per the National Family Health Survey's 2015-16 report, 58.4 per cent children below the age of five suffer from anaemia.