Although great improvements have been made within the past few years, there still is a great number of malnutrition in our country. In Asia and Africa, nearly half of mortality in children under 5 years are due to malnutrition which is about 3 million young lives a year and about 40% of children of India receive less food than they should.
The RSoC (Rapid Survey on Children) reports that:
- 7% are considered stunted(low height for age)
- 4% are considered underweight(low weight for age)
- 15% are considered wasted(low weight for height)
Undernutrition puts children at greater risk of dying from common infections, increases the frequency and severity of such infections, and contributes to delayed recovery. In addition, the interaction between undernutrition and infection can create a potentially lethal cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional status. Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can also lead to stunted growth, which is irreversible and associated with impaired cognitive ability and reduced school and work performance.
States where malnutrition is prominent
- Uttar Pradesh: Most children here, in India’s densest state by population, under the age of 5 are stunted due to malnutrition.
- Tamil Nadu: The state, despite high education has a prominent child malnutrition problem. A National Family Health Survey reveals that 23% of children here are underweight, while 25% of Chennai children show moderately stunted growth.
- Madhya Pradesh: 2015 data reveals that Madhya Pradesh has India’s highest number of malnourished children- 74.1% of them under 6 suffer from anaemia and 60% have to deal with malnutrition.
- Jharkhand and Bihar: At 56.5%, Jharkhand has India’s second highest number of malnourished children. This is followed by Bihar, at 55.9%.
Micro nutrient Malnutrition in India
With one sixth of the global population residing in India, one third of about two billion people suffering from vitamin and micronutrient deficit are in India. Micronutrients are required in small quantities and responsible for vital functions of the human body. Recent data suggest, some forms of micronutrient malnutrition are reaching their peak in the present century. This article looks at the magnitude of this problem, and the initiatives taken by the government to tackle it and the results obtained with those efforts. Then, an effort is made to consider newer options and commitments required that are available for tackling the problem of micronutrient malnutrition.
Key strategies to deal with malnutrition
- Since there is a progressive increase in under-weight and stunting rates between 3 and 23 months of age, the service component should be strengthened, especially for under-two children with respect to exclusive breast feeding, supplementary feeding practices, regular growth monitoring, prevention of infections, immunization, health and nutrition education of mothers with necessary follow-up, and corrective actions. At the grass root level, planning and integration of the work of Anganwadi workers under Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS), Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) under National Rural Health Mission and active community participation will result in better delivery of services to target groups.
- Factors associated with socioeconomic inequality such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness regarding the quality of food items, large family and poor sanitary environment are associated with malnutrition. The malnutrition is found to be 2.7 times higher among families with lower household wealth index. Rapid population growth and political commitment have an indirect effect on malnutrition. Hence, socioeconomic development of the country with involvement of all the stakeholders concerned could result in reduction of malnutrition.