More than 90% expectant mothers in rural areas are unaware of health and nutrition issues, the Jharkhand Economic Survey 2015-16 has shown. The state has one of the country’s worst maternal mortality rates.
The survey, released in February, said just 8.6% new mothers knew about nourishment during pregnancy, breastfeeding practices and nutrition in general for children.
Jharkhand social welfare officials said the figures were worrying as undernourished and underweight pregnant mothers risked mortality during delivery and had higher chances of delivering still babies or babies with a reduced life expectancy, death before five years of age.
In Jharkhand, for every 100,000 live births 208 mothers die during delivery, compared to the national rate of 178, while the under-five mortality rate among children is at a high 51 per thousand live births, according to the state health department.
“It indicates that anganbadis (village playschools that also sensitise lactating and pregnant mothers on maternal and child health) from where rural mothers source their information are not functioning properly,” said Balram, Jharkhand’s adviser to the Supreme Court-appointed commissioners for right to food.
The National Family Health Survey-3 shows 47.8% of women in Jharkhand are underweight when they begin pregnancy and a survey in 2014 by the Jharkhand Social Welfare Department (JSWD) found that more than 55% women in pregnancy had a body mass index of less than 18.5, meaning a five-foot tall woman weighed less than 40 kg.
A senior health official said on condition of anonymity that the main source of calories is from the daily platter. “However, due to a lack of awareness and poverty, pregnant women just have rice-salt, rice-potatoes or on a lucky day, rice-dal and some vegetables. The result is more than 40% pregnant women are unhealthy and anaemic,” an official said.
The JSWD-Integrated Child Development Survey 2014 showed mothers received 1,200-1,800 calories a day against the World Health Organization standard of 3,200 calories a day and the national average of 2,099 calories in rural areas.
JSWD principal secretary Vinay Kumar Choubey said a state-wide programme had been undertaken to strengthen anganbadis.
“The Jharkhand Nutrition Mission will deal with the issue. The mission has a set of objectives, the issue being one of them, and plans to eradicate under-nourishment at all levels in the next 10 years,” he said.