A latest survey on children’s health has thrown up bitter-sweet results for Madhya Pradesh.
Despite recording a huge fall in the percentage of underweight children – one of the prime indicators of malnutrition – the state is still the second worst in the country, with one in every three children (36.1%) below five years having weight less than normal for their age.
Also, about 12% children in the state are severely underweight, the Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC) 2013-14 has showed.
The report of the survey, conducted by the ministry of women and child development,was released on Wednesday. With 31.7% underweight children, Bihar is the worst performer on underweight children while the national average stands at 29.4%, the report shows.
According to National Family Health Survey (NHFS-3) conducted in 2005-06 – the only national-level nutritional survey available till now – MP had 60% underweight children.
Thus, the drop in last ten years is almost 24% -- a fact that is being considered a big achievement by the state government.
“We are happy that our efforts to contain malnutrition are paying off,” said JN Kansotiya, principal secretary, department of women and child development.
However experts have pointed out serious concerns.
They say the more worrying fact thrown up by the report is that four in ten children in the state (41.5%) are stunted (height less than normal for age) – indicating they suffer from chronic and inter-generational malnutrition.
The percentage of severely stunted children is 18.5%.
In this context, MP stands third worst in the country behind Uttar Pradesh (50.4%) and Bihar (49.4%). The national average is 38.7%.
NFHS-3 showed 50% stunted children in MP, which means that during the last ten years the percentage of stunted children has shown a drop of just 8.5.
Right to food activist Sachin Jain that said for the first time the number of stunted children has surpassed the number of underweight children considerably.
“The drop in underweight children indicates focus on immediacy in management strategy as a six-month intervention can pull an underweight child out of this category. To deal with stunting one needs to have a long-term strategy with focus on nutrition and livelihood security for people,” he said.
He added that the marginal drop in number of severely underweight children (12% from 27.3% of NFHS-3) is also a matter of concern.
Kansotiya said that after going through the report in detail, discussions would be held to deal with all the aspects.
Another worrying statistics presented by the report is that 45.8% girls in the age bracket 15-18 have low body weight. In this context too, the state is third worst performer behind Rajasthan (60.2%) and Odisha (51.8%).
The national average is 44.7%.
Jain said that low body weight of adolescent girl is a big nutritional issue especially as these girls are future mothers and their health status has a big impact on their future off-springs.