About 36 percent of the children in Delhi are malnourished with a nutritional scheme targetted at the 0-6 age-group reaching only 30 percent of the intended beneficiaries, a report released Wednesday said.
At 38 percent, the malnutritional rate is higher among girls than boys (34 percent).
This means that four out of every 10 children in Delhi are malnourished.
And, while the coverage of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is already low, its monitoring of the growth of children is its weakest element said the report of NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) and Alliance for People's Rights (APR).
It covered 21 blocks/wards and 3,650 children living in slums of west, southwest, north, northwest and northeast areas in Delhi.
"The fast pace of urbanisation poses a significant challenge to children living in urban slums - especially newborns and infants whose health depends on the availability of the mother to breastfeed," CRY associate general manager Jaya Singh said.
The report highlights the fact that only 35.2 percent of women breastfeed their children due to their low socio-economic condition.
"The analysis of our report suggests there is an urgent need to strengthen government mechanisms to ensure access to services to curb the growing menance of malnutrition," Jaya Singh added.
With malnourishment figures at 51 percent being the highest in the northwest district, 56 percent girls there were found to be malnourished.
Further, there is a shortfall not only with the ICDS scheme but also with the 11 Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) that are operational in the national capital.
"The children are hardly availing referral services for their immediate care in the NRCs and also the community health workers are unaware of such a facility," CRY regional director Soha Moitra said.
"We were shocked at the plight of people residing in the slums of Delhi. There is no streamlined targeting of nutrition related programmes for pregnant women and children in these areas. There is a need to increase coverage and central funding to schemes in Delhi," said APR convener Reena Banerjee.
The report recommends making ICDS centres functional, sensitising the community and policy prioritisation towards reducing malnutrition.