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MALNUTRITION IN INDIA

MALNUTRITION IN INDIA

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India has the maximum number of malnourished children in the world – 1 in every 3 children are malnourished. The situation is extremely critical because the effects of malnourishment are irreversible if they occur at a young age. If not death, it leads to permanent disabilities that render the children ill for the rest of their lives.

Malnutrition in India has become a situation that haunts the lives of millions of children. Among the 472 million children (2011 census), a whopping 97 million are anaemic and undernourished. For children five years or younger, close to 40% (actually 38.7%) are stunted (below normal height for the age), 19.8% are wasted (underweight and short) and 42.4% are underweight. The data-set revealed by the latest NFHS-4, states that nine out of the 11 states surveyed have not been able to reduce the rate of Infant Mortality even by 2 points annually. And that, 40 out of 1000 infants don’t get to celebrate their first birthday.

While Malnutrition and Infant Mortality Rates remain high, the budget allocated for minors, constituting 40% of India’s population remains at a meagre 4%. For example, in the village of Damodar Mohuli in Bihar, the only anganwadi in the village has been non-functional for the past 6 months. The anganwadi worker has not received her salary for this time period, and doesn’t open the centre due to lack of food and medicines. The children are suffering as a result.

children

Children:

  • 19.8 million children below age 6 in India are undernourished (ICDS 2015)
  • Only 9.6% of children between 6-23 months in the country receive an adequate diet (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • 38% (1 in 3 )of children between 0-5 years are stunted in the country (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • 21% (1 in 5) of the children in the country suffer from wasting (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • 36% of children under 5 years of age are underweight in India (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • 58% of children between 6months – 5 years were found to be anaemic in the country (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • Total Immunisation coverage in the country stood at 62% in 2015-16 (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • 21% of the births in the country were home births (NFHS 4, 2015-16)

Maternal Health:

  • Only 21% of mothers (1 in 5) received full antenatal care in the country (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
  • More than 50% of the pregnant women aged 15-49 years were found to be anaemic (NFHS 4, 2015-16)
Rohingya children waiting for food in refugee camp in Bangladesh. Food is distributed by Turkish NGO.

Due to all these issues and set-backs, right now several children, women and communities are fighting the long-term ill-effects of malnourishment, chronic hunger, lack of health-care and unstable livelihoods.

A sound foundation is critical for the overall development of a human being. In fact, 90% development of the brain occurs within 5-6 years of age. Thus, to ensure a right start to life, early childhood care and learning is exceedingly important. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is one of the largest public service schemes in India catering to the need of children below the age of 6 years. This scheme, implemented from 1,974 onwards, has the potential to have the most comprehensive coverage.

Sadly, the reality is otherwise. The budget allocation for the ICDS scheme has declined by 9.6%, from 15,584 Cr (RE 2015-16) to 14,862 Cr (BE 2016-17). Some states like Maharashtra have seen a significant cut (from 3,463 crores in 2015-16 {RE} to 1,307 crores {2016-17} BE). This, for a scheme that is still only able to cover 50% of the child population of the country and clearly requires more investment.

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