New Delhi: Distribution of “ready-to-use therapeutic food” (RUTF) called “pulpy nut” to children in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh has got the UNICEF in an unusual spot.
Objecting to the distribution without its consent, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) and the Ministry of Health have asked UNICEF to stop and ship out the entire consignment.
RUTF is mostly used in Sub-Saharan Africa and caters to a severely malnourished population.
WCD officials say that although UNICEF spent about Rs 11.5 crore — its own funds — to import, from France, a high-protein peanut-based paste, it did not keep the Government in the loop.
“RUTF is used in war-torn countries like Africa. We do not approve of the strategy as there are other low-cost alternatives available in the country itself,” said Amit Mohan Prasad, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry.
UNICEF imported RUTF from August 2008 to January 2009 but it was only in April this year that the WCD cracked down.
UNICEF’s chief of communication Angela Walker said there was a basis to RUTF’s distribution: “Children with severe and acute malnutrition are at risk of imminent death and need immediate, life-saving treatment. Family foods or supplementary foods are not enough, these children need very specific treatment for their condition”.
Underlining that UNICEF has a strong “working relationship” with the WCD Ministry, Walker said: “UNICEF will continue its evidence-based, open and frank discussions and coordination with the Government of India to make sure the most urgent nutrition needs of children are met.”