A national survey to determine the overall health of the country has revealed startling problems – among them, severe malnutrition among children younger than five years.
“Wasting or severe malnutrition in children is still very high by international standards,” a Health ministry release quoting the report states. More than 40% of children in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya are stunted. The UNICEF India website says that India accounts for more than a third of the world’s stunted children. The WHO estimates that there are more underweight children in India than in sub-Saharan Africa.
The fourth National Family Health Survey or NFHS-4, conducted by the government after 10 years, was made public last month based on the data from 13 states and two union territories. Data from the remaining 16 states and five union territories is expected to be released later this year.
The Health Ministry said that “fewer children are dying in infancy and early childhood”. It also says that immunization has “substantially improved” over the last decade. But examination of the survey shows that 40% of children still do not get full immunization cover, in the states and UTs it covered, which includes shots against seven vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.
Health Minister JP Nadda said that between 2009 and 2013, immunization coverage increased from 61 per cent to 65 per cent. The poor improvement was blamed on the previous UPA government by the minister, who said a new scheme (Mission Indradhanush) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will aim at covering many more children against diseases that can be prevented by vaccines including tuberculosis, measles and Hepatitis B.
Since the last survey (2005-2006), “anaemia has declined but still remains widespread”, says the ministry. “More than half of children are anemic in 10 of 15 states and UTS and more than half of women anemic in 11 states and UTs,” it said.
In West Bengal, one of out every two children younger than is anaemic.
In a new concern, at least three in 10 women were found obese in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Some positives from the report: India continues to be free of the wild polio virus for the fifth consecutive year. And significantly, infant mortality has declined according to trend data from the new survey (below 51 deaths per 1,000 births).
Madhya Pradesh reports the highest infant mortality.
The 13 States covered include Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
The two Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry are also part of survey. Rest of states will be covered in phases and finally about 570,000 households will be surveyed.