Hyderabad: Even as Telangana is clocking in significant growth rate, there is also a remarkable improvement in the health of pregnant and lactating women. The anaemic levels among them have registered a fall from 58 per cent in 2005-06 to 49 per cent now. Stunted growth noticed among children below five years has also dropped from 43 per cent in 2005-06 to 28 per cent.
The National Family Health survey carried out recently indicates notable improvement in the nutritional status of women and newborns, and the turnaround is attributed to the Arogya Laxmi programme introduced by the TRS government soon after creation of the new State.
The programme aims at providing supplementary nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers through Anganwadi centres. After bifurcation of the State, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was scaled up through provision of one full meal to meet 40 to 45 per cent of calorie, protein and calcium requirement of pregnant and lactating women every day.
A significant outcome is improvement in the birth weight of children from 2.5 kg to 3.5 kg now. Even though the ICDS was under implementation, low birth weight and underweight children posed a big challenge to health officials. The take home ration (THR) earlier provided was found too meager and moreover it got shared by everyone at home. The programme was given a tweak under Arogya Laxmi and it was resolved to ensure that the pregnant and lactating mothers received ‘one full meal’ at the Anganwadi centres only. The meal also includes a boiled egg and 200 ml milk.
Today, 2.71 lakh pregnant women and 2.03 lakh lactating mothers are being served one full meal at 35,000 Anganwadi centres in the State. In addition to the meal, they are also administered Iron Folic Acid tablets for prevention and treatment of anaemia. “There is considerable improvement in the nutritional status of women and children”, says a beaming M Jagadeeshwar, secretary, Women and Child Welfare.
The Arogya Laxmi scheme is also taking care of the newborns. They are given 16 eggs per month from six months to three years. And those between 3 to 6 years are given 30 eggs per month. Children are also provided ‘Balamrutham’, a fortified food, as supplementary nutrition. The weaning food is a mix of chana dal, wheat, milk powder, oil and sugar and is fortified to provide 50 percent of iron, calcium, protein and other nutrients required for children.
Made at Telangana Foods, Nacharam, this supplementary nutrition is of immense help to children during 7 months to 3 years, the crucial period in their growth. Each child is provided 2.5 kg of this ready to eat food per month. About 10.71 lakh children are benefiting from Balamrutham. The government is closely monitoring the health indicators after the nutritional interventions have succeeded in improving the health of women and children.