Simranjeet Kaur Walia
With one of the highest infantile malnutrition rates in the world, India has gained popularity as one of the world’s nutritional basket cases in recent years. Although India has made significant progress in combating childhood malnutrition over the past decade, progress has been quite uneven and infantile malnutrition rates remain high in many parts of the country, according to the latest survey by the National Survey Family Health NFHS) shows.
The survey of more than 6 lakh families conducted in 2015-16 shows that in the last ten years, the percentage of underweight children has decreased by almost 7 percentage points to 36%, while the percentage of children with chronic stenosis) malnutrition decreased By almost 10 percentage points to 38%. Despite progress, these rates are even higher than many of the poorer countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. And in some of the most affected districts, such as Purulia in West Bengal and Maharashtra Nandurbar, every second child is malnourished.
This high level of child malnutrition imposes a huge economic cost. Malnutrition accounted for losses of at least 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the twentieth century due to “direct loss of productivity, loss of awareness and loss reduction education,” according to The Lancet Medical Magazine, In particular on the issue in 2013. Losses are higher for heavily dependent countries such as the India theme.
As in the case of adult malnutrition rates, districts with the highest levels of malnutrition seem to be largely grouped in the central areas of the country. The lower quartile of districts classified by childhood malnutrition rates includes not only districts of disadvantaged tribal belts in central and eastern India, but also some of the more urbanized neighbourhoods of the country such as Udaipur in Rajasthan, Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh , Patna in Bihar and Jharkhand Ranchi. However, the overall rates of urban childhood malnutrition are lower than those of rural areas in India.
Districts with relatively low levels of child malnutrition are grouped mainly in the north-south end and northeast of the country, as shown by district maps. Some of the country’s best performing districts with the lowest percentages of underweight children such as Mokokchung in Nagaland and Mizoram Aizawl found in northeast India.
One of the main reasons children are malnourished in the country is that their mothers are often malnourished. One in five women are underweight in India. Women who are malnourished or have a pregnancy at an early age are at increased risk of giving birth to children of low birth weight who are at a nutritional disadvantage from birth. In addition, uneducated and unmarried women in their families often fail to ensure adequate diets for their children, even when there is no adequate food at home.
The link between sanitation and malnutrition is even stronger. Districts with low levels of bath access have much higher rates of infantile malnutrition than districts with relatively high levels of access to the baths. In a densely populated country like ours, the lack of sanitation contributes to the spread of infectious diseases. Children are more likely to be victims of such illnesses, and tend to lose their ability to absorb nutrients, leading to malnutrition.
Among the states, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh seem to have made significant progress in improving growth rates and underweight children from 2005-06 when the previous round of NFHS took place. Tripura increased three steps between 2005-06 and 2015-16 to occupy the third position, behind Kerala and Goa, among states with lower levels of growth stoppage. States like Chhattisgarh and Punjab saw significant improvements in the growth rates of growth. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have made some progress in combating childhood malnutrition, but remain among the worst in terms of underweight rates and growth stoppages. They also continue to represent most malnourished children in India, as they did ten years ago.