Only 31% children get adequate nutrition in Tamil Nadu and that’s the highest in India
When you think of a baby, what comes to mind? Probably the picture of a toothless smile on a chubby face: the picture of a happy, healthy infant. But the reality of India is starkly different from this image. In our country, 90% children below the age of two years struggle to get adequate nutrition.
According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-16), 9 out of 10 children in the six to 23 month age group are deprived of adequate diet in the country.
The shocking figures, highlighted in a media release by Child Rights and You (CRY), an NGO, also reveal that Tamil Nadu has the highest number of children receiving adequate nutrition in the said age group. However, the number does not cross 31% here as well.
Karnataka, which performs slightly better than other states, also has only 8% children receiving adequate diet within the first 23 months of their lives.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan fares the worst with only 3% children below the age of two getting adequate nutrition.
Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab are also among the worst performing states.
Another aspect that affects an infant’s health is the dismal state of maternal care in the country. 50% pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 years were found to be anaemic as per NFHS 4 figures. Only 21% received complete antenatal care.
“Poor health of mothers adversely affects the physical and cognitive development of the child, rendering a very poor start to life and having lifelong implications,” said the media release.
In Karnataka, 67% mothers did not get access to full antenatal care in 2015-16 and 45% pregnant women aged 15 to 49 years are anaemic. This has a direct effect on the child’s health too: 36% children in the state below five years are stunted and 35% in the same age group are underweight.
With 52 million Indian children below the age of five years being stunted, their future growth and development is bound to be affected due to chronic and long term undernourishment. And with only 62% children being completely immunized in the country, the health of those unvaccinated is at an elevated risk, CRY says.
To tackle malnutrition in Indian children, the government has the Integrated Child Development scheme. However, Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy for CRY, says that while ICDS “has the right intent to ensure a solid foundation for children when maximum brain development occurs”, it needs a more robust implementation.
“It is non-negotiable for the state to ensure adequate budget and robust implementation mechanism for greater convergence of health and nutrition services for every child in the country,” Ganotra says.