Things have not improved in the drought-prone Balangir district which is known for distress mass migration. While all sections of the poor suffer, the most vulnerable are the children in the formative stage.
According to recent data of Integrated Child’s Development Scheme (ICDS), more than 33 per cent children in the age group of one to five years are undernourished while 3.24 are severely malnourished. Also, 67,192 of the total 1,12,815 children are undernourished.
The data also revealed that 34.65 pc of three to five years old children are malnourished and 2.26 per cent severely malnourished. Sources said the actual figures could be much higher.
There are 2,286 anganwadi centres across the district besides 157 mini-anganwadi centres. The minimum criterion of opening new anganwadi is 150 to 300 population in a particular village. There are complaints of irregularities and bad quality service at the anganwadis which is often ignored by the Women and Child Welfare Department which runs the scheme.
District Social Welfare Officer Sakuntala Bhoi said efforts are made to provide good service to the backward community of the district and make the scheme more active. “We can bring down the figures but we cannot prohibit malnourishment totally. However, figures of Balangir district are less than the State figures,” she said.
Health scenario in fact remains dismal in this part of the State and despite a slew of schemes, children remain underfed.
While administration officials often blame the adverse environment, deprivation and hunger remain prime causes of malnourishment.