Date: 15th September 2014
Release of the report and a panel discussion
How undernutrition and poor sanitation are stunting the growth of children in Mumbai’s structured and unstructured slums
The City’s uber-rich need to do much more to solve the problem of sanitation and malnutrition
Shri Mohandas Pai, former Director, Infosys, and founder member of the Akshaya Patra Foundation released the report titled MUMBAI’S SHAME: How undernutrition and poor sanitation are stunting the growth of children in Mumbai’s structured and unstructured slums at an event organized here on Monday. The report is the result of a collaborative epidemiological study conducted by Observer Research Foundation Mumbai (ORF), a not-for-profit public policy think tank, and the M. B. Barvalia Foundation, a service-oriented trust, under the guidance of Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni and Dr. Praful Barvalia
In a panel discussion that followed the release of the report, Shri Pai held the audience in rapt attention with his commentary on the introduction of the Midday Meal program, its early successes, and the establishment of the Akshaya Patra Foundation.
“How is it that a city of 30 billionaires, each with a net worth of $150 billion or more, can’t solve the problem of open defecation, lack of toilets and clean water, which are the main factors leading to diarrhea and malnutrition in children?”, Shri Pai asked. Tackling these problems would reduce the incidence of malnourishment in children by 10 to 15% immediately, he said.
“Indian society lacks compassion”, he pointed out, ruing the lack of vigilance on the government’s spending coupled with the lack of public pressure that keeps the problem unsolved and unattended.
Referring to the recent clamor among brides-to-be for toilets within homes, he called for education and empowerment of women as a means to bring about a change in social habits and mentality.
Another panelist, Shri SitaramShelar, Programme Director at Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), a Mumbai-based NGO working for the betterment of slum populations, said that municipal corporations have never accepted water and sanitation as key priorities. He highlighted the flawed laws regarding land ownership and tenancy rights, which have restricted access to basic facilities like water and sanitation for many in the city. He also lamented that the unplanned growth of slums in the city is often used as a pretext for not providing adequate toilet facilities for slum dwellers.
Speaking on the occasion, DrPrafulBarvalia, one of Mumbai’s leading Homoeopaths and the founder chairman of MB Barvalia Foundation, said that micro-nutrient deficiencies cannot be treated by supplementary nutrition and, therefore, ensuring an adequate dietary intake would be the best way to ensure a balanced diet.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, ORFMumbai, in his closing remarks, said that not only is a multi-pronged strategy required to tackle undernutrition in Mumbai, but also a wider community of citizens need to be involved in the interventions.
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About the report:
The study was carried out through a health-camp, conducted by ORF Mumbai and M. B.Barvalia Foundation for 300 children from across structured and unstructured slum clusters in Ghatkopar. The findings of the study have empirically established that the problem of undernutrition and the attendant maladies such as stunted physical and mental development of children. It records that poor attendance in school and unsatisfactory learning outcomes are more rampant in unstructured slums than in the structured slums.
In the structured slums, 40.67% of children were underweight, and in the unstructured slum, 70% were underweight. Similarly, 34% of children were stunted in a structured slum while 51.33% were stunted in an unstructured slum. Associated co-morbidities of respiratory infections, headache, pain in the abdomen, limbs, were reported among children of both clusters.
Higher percentages of abnormal behavior, irritability, were recorded among children of unstructured slums. The findings also recorded higher percentages of undernourished children among those who had to defecate in the open, lacked access to piped water, faced household food insecurity, and lived in unclean environments of dust and dirt, than those who have those basic services.
The diet of the children from the structured slum was found to be grossly inadequate and unfit for growing children. They consumed less amount of milk, fruit, and vegetable had inappropriate breakfast, and were largely dependent on cheap junk food from neighborhood vendors. About 41% of children had consumed half or less than half of the mid-day meal served in school, throwing away the rest, highlighting the gap between what is prescribed for the children under the scheme and what is actually supplied.
Main recommendations made in the report include:
- Health Services in slums must be revamped to tackle malnutrition.
- The Mid Day Meal Scheme and Supplementary Nutrition Programme for Anganwadis in the city must be redesigned with better variety, appeal, and nutrition content.
- There must be awareness regarding optimum nutrition and nutritious food choices among children and their parents.
- There must be better coverage of Maternal Health and Nutrition Interventions in both structured and unstructured slums.
- Municipal School Health Programme must be enhanced through partnerships.
- ICDS (Anagnwadi services) must be extended to all people living in unauthorized slums and there must be convergence between the Municipal Health Department and Women and Child Development in running of Anganwadis.
- There must be more emphasis on centrally-run community kitchens for providing cheap nutritious food through the ICDS.
- There must be improvements in sanitation and civic facilities for all slum dwellers.
- Efforts must be made to reach out to children of recently migrated families.
- There must be active participation of Citizens, the private sector, and NGOs around advocacy and action for sanitation, equal access to nutritious food, water, and healthcare for all.