NEW DELHI: A study by the researchers from India and the UK has highlighted that deaths occurring due to ‘severe acute malnutrition’ (SAM) in India is actually far lower than the World Health Organisation estimates and home-based nutrition is sufficient for recovery over long term to help kids suffering from it.
While WHO, based on its studies in some African countries, estimated such deaths between 10-20 per cent, the researchers found that the figure is less just 1.2 per cent for India. The study is particularly significant as the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is set to release the guidelines for community-based management of SAM children.
According to sources, a note released internally on the same has left it to states to introduce ready-to-use therapeutic food, nutrient-dense packaged food. The analysis by the researchers associated with University College of London, Public Health Foundation of India, Sitaram Bharatia Institute of Science and Research and a Jharkhand based NGO, however has noted that community treatment using RUTF may not avert a substantial number of SAM-related deaths in children aged over 6 months, as mortality in this group is lower than expected.
Globally there are about 26 million SAM children, 8.1 per cent of which are estimated to be in India. In the past, Maharashtra has introduced RUTF supplied by international food giants for tackling SAM.
The researchers conducted a cohort study in Jharkhand and Odisha, with a high prevalence of child under-nutrition and determined the incidence and prevalence of moderately acute malnutrition and SAM, mortality, and recovery among 2,869 children followed up from 6 to 18 months of age.
They found that SAM carried a lower case fatality rate, echoing results from three other Indian studies, which had found case fatality rates ranging from 2.7 to 5.2 per cent among children older than 6 months.