Malnutrition: A Serious Issue

By Tripati Khura

India is growing day by day financially, GDP rate is growing rapidly, yet still it is suffering in malnutrition. Because of malnutrition Infant Mortality Rate and Mother Mortality Rate has not been reduced. Apart from this in India most people go hungry due to not having appropriate land. As per the Global Hunger Index (GHI) – 2010 survey report, India ranks 67 out of 122. To address this problem, the govt. is implementing numerous programs like ICDS, NHM, PDS, NNM, NFSM etc.

Integrated Child Development Scheme is a package of services comprising of supplementary nutrition food, immunization, health check-up, referral service & education. It has been implemented to help vulnerable communities in rural and urban areas. The main objective to implement this program is to improve health and nutritional status of children from the age group of 0-6 years, to lay foundation to proper growth of a child both physically and psychologically, to reduce the chances of mother & child mortality rate, as well malnutrition rate and to provide nutrition education to mothers to help them in childcare

Though the above measures have been taken on its account, but the malnutrition rate is not declining to desired extent and the department has not been able to control the issues so far because the assistance, unfortunately, does not reach its intended beneficiaries. According to NFHS – 4, in India 38.4 percent children under the age group of 5 years are stunted, 21 percent are wasted & out of which 7.5 percent are severely wasted, and 35.8 percent are underweight. Though in NFHS – 4, the percentage of affected children has decreased but not to a desirable percentage.

Likewise, In Odisha, children malnutrition has been reduced in between 10 years from NFHS -3 to NFHS – 4. The percentage of stunted has decreased from 45 percent to 34 percent, underweight problem has decreased from 41 percent to 34 percent, wasted has unchanged and remained 20 percent out of which 6 percent of children are severely wasted. Three percent children are overweight.

During first six month of life 26 percent of children are stunted; 29 percent are underweight, and 31 percent are wasted although almost all children are breastfed. In addition, forty five percent of children from the age group 6-59 moths are anaemic in Odisha out of which 25 percent are mildly anaemic, 19 percent are moderately anaemic and less than 1 percent are facing severe anaemia.

Children are vulnerable and affected in malnutrition due to low dietary intakes, lack of appropriate care, food insecurity, inequitable food distribution in intra-household, poor access of health services, lack of safe drinking water, early marriage of girls, poor sanitation & environment condition, lack of proper breast feeding, poor complementary feeding practices, low level of awareness on do’s & don’ts of balanced diet and frequent infections. Apart from this, some other factors also contribute to malnutrition like agricultural, geographical, environmental and cultural. In consequences it effects largely, which includes less cognitive function, motor development and poor performance in school.

The modern agriculture system is also responsible to affect people, especially children in different diseases including malnutrition. People are using more chemical fertilizers to produce more crops, which makes soil strong and unfertile, as well as polluting the air and water. More numbers farmers are adopting inorganic farming system, which hampers humans directly or indirectly, instead of organic. Consequently, consumers are not getting safe and nutritious food. Apart from this people are interested in growing cash crops instead of food crops like: cotton, coffee, oilseeds, etc.

Undernourished children have less chances of survival as compare to well-nourished children. The undernourished children normally suffer from different illness such as: diarrhea, measles, malaria and pneumonia. Nutrition plays a significant role in physical and mental growth of a child which starts from the mother’s womb. Hence, the duration from the mother’s womb to 2 years (1000 days) of a child is the most crucial period which is known as the golden days.

Behavior Change Communication (BCC): A Major Preventive Intervention to Address Malnutrition:

In my recent experience, I came to know that most people are not consuming crops, as they prefer to sell it in market to make more money. Some of them willingly prefer to take only rice and boiled potatoes in their daily meals, because they are not aware on nutritious food and its benefit. The women including pregnant & lactating mother are restricted to take certain nutrient foods like: papaya, banana, pumpkin, green leaf, chicken, mutton due to belief in certain myths. In household level chicken is not provided to adolescent girls due to religious beliefs. There is lack of cleanliness, less usage of hand wash and proper toilet facilities. Apart from this, lack of proper knowledge on storage of grains, on proper cooking process and on rear & care of children are major causes of malnutrition, climate change also plays a role in this problem. To tackle all these myths and misconceptions, Behavior Change Communication (BCC) method is much more essential. By using this tool, need based information should be disseminated at a grassroots level, as well as motivation and education should be given to people to encourage them to consume nutritious food and to lead a healthy life.

About the Author: Tripati Khura is a development professional and social worker. He has been working for the sustainable development of the tribal people in Odisha. Especially on the issues of women empowerment, forest conservation, child rights, education, health and good governance.

One Comment

  1. It’s really a good article to know about the special geographical region and issue , good job Tripathy , waiting for the upcoming articles