"KHUSHI" is an AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, launched by Vedanta Resources plc, with a focus to sensitize people towards care for the underprivileged and deprived children – their Nutrition – Education – Health and overall development. Join Khushi on facebook at and send motivational stories at . LET US MAKE INDIA A CHILD MALNOURISHED FREE NATION..


Rosamma Thomas I TNN I April 7, 2017 I Jaipur

As Rajasthan celebrates the World Health Day on Friday, malnourishment among children has cropped up as a big problem area that needs to be addressed without any delay.

To mark the occasion, the NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY), released data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2016-17) (see graphic) in which the state has emerged as a definite laggard, with only 3% of the under-five children receiving "adequate diet", defined as breast-fed kids receiving a minimum of three feeds and others getting milk or milk products at least twice a day.

One study shows that malnutrition is so widespread that mothers have failed to recognize it.

In early 2015, after screening 12 lakh children, the government had identified over 4,000 of them as 'severely acutely malnourished' (SAM).

A rapid survey by the women and child development department and UNICEF found over 35% of the under-five children as malnourished, with the largest number reported from Baran, among Sahariya tribals.

In a paper published in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) in August last year, Pavitra Mohan, Kumaril Agarwal and Priyanka Jain pointed to the "normalization" of malnutrition in Rajasthan. Over 60% of the mothers who claimed their children were normal were wrong as their kids were malnourished.

Economist and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton has pointed to poor sanitation and infections as eroding nutrition levels in India.

Besides, the children's diet lacks protein and fat. Malnutrition leaves them vulnerable to disease and early death. According to NFHS data, 41 babies from every lakh die in the state and 51 do not survive beyond the age of five.

The EPW paper, based on research done in the southern districts of Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banwara and Rajsamand, with a high tribal population prone to out-migration, showed that about 20% of the mothers from nearly 500 households surveyed reported the loss of a child.

The authors found that "only about 28% of the children consumed milk. Almost none of them had consumed egg, meat or fish over the last 24 hours. Fewer than 10% reported consuming appropriate and nutritional food items such as 'daliya' (porridge), rice, pulses and vegetables or fruits, and even those had it in small quantities. A significant proportion of children were given tea, biscuits and and 'namkeen' (fried snacks)". One mother reported that she only bought milk when the child fell sick. "Otherwise, we cannot afford milk."

Fifty-eight per cent of the mothers studied by the EPW authors were malnourished as well, struggling to cope with the heavy demands of motherhood and housework.

Trupti Rane of CRY said, "Malnourishment in early years is directly linked to maternal health. Poorly nourished, expecting and lactating mothers pass on their deficiencies to the child. Having newborns breastfed within the first hour of birth is critical for baby nutrition. Colostrum (the first milk of the mother), extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies, ensures basic nutrition and immunization. Universalization of anganwadi centres and robust growth monitoring measures can lead to a lasting solution of this issue."

The article also pointed to the failure of government provisioning - only a fourth of the people studied sought healthcare from a public facility.

"Nutritional support offered by PDS remains low, both due to poor functioning and the scheme being limited to grains and sugar (with no pulses or oil)," the authors note. Only 3.6% of women reported working under the MGNREGA scheme.

Chhaya Pachauli of NGO Prayas said, "Both public health and ICDS infrastructure are in awful shape. Outreach services and counselling which could go a long way in preventing malnutrition are hardly prioritized. Government may introduce endless schemes, but until there's a boost in budget for health and nutrition, not much improvement can be expected. Efforts to strengthen health, nutrition, sanitation and PDS need to go hand in hand."

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