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Express News Service

KOLKATA: The number of children suffering from malnutrition in West Bengal has increased twofold owing to closure of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centres amid Covid-19, revealed a survey by the state government.

The survey, conducted across the state in September, found that 6.7 lakh children were malnourished. The figure was 3.5 lakh in August last year.

There are two categories to measure children with malnutrition — severe and moderate. “According to the recent survey report, 18,162 children are suffering from severe malnutrition and 6.52 lakh children with moderate malnutrition. The total number of malnourished children has increased two times,” said an official quoting the survey of women and child development and social welfare department.

Bengal has 1,17,120 ICDS centres which cater to 73.45 lakh children till the age of six and also take care of pregnant and lactating mothers. “Most of malnourished children are from poor families living in remote pockets. Significant number of malnourished children was reported from districts like Purulia, West Midnapore, Jhargram and Bankura, which are known as backward regions of the state,” said the official.

The administration in many districts has initiated measures to deal with the situation. In Purulia, the administration is reaching out to the families of 2,658 severely malnourished children with fruit saplings and proposal for constructing small ponds in their land to breed fish for children. “Ready-to-eat nutritious food is also being offered to families having severely malnourished children,” said another official.

Lack of jobs during lockdown also played a role in pushing malnourishment. “Boiled rice received from ration shops was the only source of food for jobless people who couldn’t afford two sqare meals for their families,” said the official.