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Iron boost to midday meals

- Govt and Unicef to improve nutrition of adolescents
(From left) Arti Ahuja, secretary, women and child development, Pradipta Mahapatra, secretary, health and family welfare department, Usha Padhee, secretary, school and mass education, and Yumi Bae, chief of Unicef, launch the programme on nutrition in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 27: Midday meals for around 65 lakh students in all government and aided schools in Odisha will become more nutritious. The state government today launched a programme to include iron and folic acid capsules in school meals aimed at tackling the problem of anaemia among adolescents.

Official statistics reveal that 240 million adolescents in the country suffer from iron deficiency and the problem is more acute in girls. The state has 61 per cent anaemic girls, especially those in the age group of 15 to 19 years, which is five per cent higher than the national average.

“Earlier, iron supplements were provided only to out-of-school children. But this year, we have decided to extend it to all schools under the departments of school and mass education, labour, ST/SC development, and women and child development,” said Pradipta Mahapatra, secretary of health and family welfare department, which will provide the capsules to be administered to the adolescents .

“The schools will maintain a register to keep a tab on the iron intake of the children. We will ensure that they don’t miss out on the tablets on holidays. This programme will benefit 65 lakh adolescents, including 12 lakh non-school going and 28 lakh school-going girls,” said Usha Padhee, secretary of school and mass education.

City-based paediatrician Arabinda Mohanty hailed the programme, adding a word of caution. “The capsules should not be administered to children suffering from thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia as iron will act as toxin for them,” he said.

Officials from Unicef, which is collaborating with the government for this programme, said improving the nutritional intake of adolescents and creating a hygienic environment around them could control anaemia.

Odia actress Archita Sahu has been roped in as the state ambassador for this project.