New India can’t be nutrition deficient

Over 67% of children below five years in India are anaemic. That translates to about seven in every 10 children suffering from iron deficiency.

Published: 01st December 2021 07:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2021 07:09 AM   |  A+A-

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Image used for representational purpose only (File Photo | PTI)

Over 67% of children below five years in India are anaemic. That translates to about seven in every 10 children suffering from iron deficiency. The outcome of the phase-2 of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) reveals the dangerous demographic pattern for a country that wants to be a global economic superpower. Let’s take a look at the pregnant women in the 15–49 age category  and the number stands at 52.2%. For non-pregnant women, the number is higher at 57.2%. Talking in terms of the economic burden of anaemia, the loss it inflicts is probably as much as the health budget of the country. 

Back in the 1970s, India had launched the National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme (NNAPP) to fight the deficiency. In 2019, it rolled out the Anaemia Mukt Bharat campaign. Two years hence and after Covid-19, the numbers have not just ballooned but are even scary in some states. Assam’s anaemia scenario for children in the 6–59 month bracket stands at a whopping 68.4% in NFHS-5, up by 32% since NFHS-4. Chhattisgarh’s numbers have jumped to 67.2%, an increase of 25.6%. In Odisha, where malnutrition has remained acute, the anaemia figures are equally worrying—from 44.6% in 2015–16, it has grown to 64.2%. Anaemia is a major contributor to disability among children as well as the cause of mortality among newborns and mothers. Further the NFHS-5 shows stunting, wasting and under-weight parameters have not shown much improvement over the last survey.

All this begs for re-strategising of nutritional planning for the country as well as individual states where the situation remains grim. Change in dietary plans, use of sustainable local solutions and further strengthening of surveillance and monitoring systems would be the need of the hour. There should be regional planning for nutritional programmes too. It is important to find out whether the pandemic has snapped nutrition access to children and women who are largely dependent on supplementary nutrition schemes and rework the planning. The dream of a New India cannot be built on a large population of children and mothers deprived of nutritional sufficiency.


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