Ramila Neupane of Hetauda Sub-metropolitan City-4 visited a health institution in her ward last month to get Balvita, fortified flour, for her seven-month-old daughter. But the health workers at the institution sent her back without it, citing that the current batch of fortified flour is of substandard quality.
The health workers of Mohan Bajracharya Memorial Urban Health Institution at Hetauda-4 told Neupane that the Balvita available at the health institution was substandard and could be harmful to the child’s health.
“Although the expiry date on the package of Balvita reads 2022, the flour has turned to dough and is not for consumption,” said Bishnu Maya Shrestha, a health worker at the institution. “It tastes sour so we stopped distributing the fortified flour.”
Almost all the health institutions in Makwanpur district have reported receiving spoiled Balvita meant for children aged six months to two years old. Because of this, the health institutions in Makwanpur have halted the distribution of Balvita for the past four months.
The federal government started the Balvita distribution programme in several districts in 2015 with an aim to control malnutrition among children. The nutrient flour is distributed to children through the health institutions of the local units.
Raksirang, a remote rural municipality in Makwanpur with serious malnutrition problems among children, has also halted the distribution of fortified flour due to its quality issue.
Bijaya Kapari, the health unit coordinator of Raksirang Rural Municipality, said that the health workers have stopped distributing the nutrient flour as it was found to be of substandard quality.
“We have urged the concerned authorities to send a fresh lot of Balvita. We have to halt the Balvita distribution until the new packets arrive,” said Kapari.
According to Bhola Chaulagain, the health coordinator of Hetauda Sub-metropolis, the latest lot of Balvita supplied by the Supply Management Centre in Hetauda is also of substandard quality.
“The consignment sent to the health institutions and the one in the godown of the district health office is of substandard quality. We have instructed health workers in all health centres not to distribute Balvita and have urged the concerned authority to send us fresh stock immediately,” said Chaulagain.
The Supply Management Centre in Hetauda says it is investigating the reason behind the supply of the substandard product.
“We have apprised the authorities of the problem,” said Dr Arjun Sapkota, chief at the centre. “We are looking into the matter seriously.”
The local units of Makwanpur have been distributing Balvita to infants aged six months to two years free of cost. Three different nutrient flours are distributed by the government—the first for children aged 6-11 months; the second for children between 12-17 months of age; and the third for children between 18-23 months.