An independent study on nutrition status in Odisha’s Rayagada district has revealed that a whopping 75 per cent children face stunting, thanks to acute malnutrition.
The study findings showed that the share of severely wasted children indicates a serious humanitarian crisis, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifications, necessitating immediate intervention of the State Government. Wasted children are defined by low weight for a height and reflects acute under nutrition caused by inadequate food and nutrition intake.
The stunting rate of 75 per cent in Bissamkatak and Muniguda blocks - where the study was conducted - pointed at severe malnourishment.
A major reason the researchers said was lack of sanitation and acute scarcity of drinking water. The study revealed that almost the entire population resided in kutcha houses with no toilets and there was scarcity of drinking water.
The Study on Food, Nutrition and Education covered 52 villages under six gram panchayats comprising tribal and Dalit population. The target groups of the study comprised the pregnant and mothers of children up to the age of two, children below five years (for nutritional status) and children in age group of 5-14 years (for educational status). Researchers Dr Sheila Vir and Dr Ravindra Srivastava carried out the survey in 2,050 households of 52 villages.
In a time frame of 12 months, 23 deaths of children below one year out of 171 live births were reported. This roughly amounts to 131 deaths per 1,000 which is much higher than the reported district-level IMR of 83/1000; while state-level IMR is recorded at 69/1000. Ironically a sizeable percentage of lactating mothers (87 per cent) were registered within the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
The study outcome, which has been shared with Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, revealed that 12 per cent of the total sampled children under five years of age - 693 in number - were found to be severely wasted. Seventy-five per cent of children under five were found to be stunted out of which 55 per cent were severely stunted.
The major reasons behind malnutrition were found to be low birth weight, faulty lactating and weaning practices, lack of hygiene and high prevalence of diseases.
The cycle of malnourishment, the study said, started with the mothers. Of 138 pregnant women, close to 14 per cent were found to be malnourished.
In case of mothers having children below two years, 53 per cent were in the category of under nutrition with body mass index less than 18.5. This led to low quality of caring practices resulting in deaths of infants.