Child Malnutrition – Need to rethink the strategy and focus more on Adolescent Girls

All of us have seen the figures relating to high prevalence of malnutrition in children in India published on the basis of Hunger and Malnutrition Survey in rural India, HUNGaNA 2010-11. The survey focussed on 100 districts (referred to as focus districts) which were at the bottom  of the Child Development Index developed in 2009 by Indicus Analytics for Unicef. Some of the facts are as follows.


    • 42% of under-five children in focus districts are underweight. Although compared to 53% of 2002-04, there appears to be a improvement.
    • 59% of under-five children in focus districts are stunted (being height less than expected)
    • Even in the six best district (other than the above 100 districts), where Child Development Index was much better, under-weight (33%) and stunting (43%) though lower was still substantially high – suggesting endemic and persistent nature of problem.
    • An important finding of the survey is that lower the socio-economic background of the family / mother (including lower level of education of the mother), higher the malnutrition %.
One of the conclusions coming out of the survey is that children born to mothers who are undernourished or are not in good health will be at a greater risk of undernourished. As per NFHS-3 data, 36% of mothers are undernourished, 11% are less than 145 cm tall and 55% are anaemic. Thus present intervention under ICDS and other health programmes which focus on health of mothers who are expecting, perhaps is a bit too late. While this would help in controlling Infant Mortality Rate (in which India has made considerable progress), however perhaps it is required that there is a need to focus on adolescent girls to help improve the malnutrition of children.

       Based on an article appearing in Indian Express


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