Survey figures show 23 per cent of children stunted, 16 per cent wasted and 23 per cent underweight

The status of nutrition among children in Maharashtra has improved compared to six years ago, reveals the new Comprehensive Nutrition Survey of Maharashtra (CNSM).

Of the 2,650 children below the age of two surveyed in the State, 23 per cent were found to be stunted, 16 per cent wasted and 23 per cent underweight– all indicators of malnutrition.

Comparatively, estimates of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3) of 2005-06 showed that 39 per cent of the children surveyed were stunted, 19.9 per cent wasted and 29.6 per cent underweight.

The study was conducted by the International Institute of Population Sciences, also responsible for NFHS 3.

The survey was a joint initiate of the State government and UNICEF.

“Malnutrition is a difficult battle and we are heartened to see that there has been such a reduction of malnutrition in the State,” said Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who released the report on Friday.

‘Sample size is small’

However, experts say the results require further scrutiny.

“The sample size is small especially when subdivided into tribal-non-tribal, rural-urban and by gender. This makes for a larger margin of error,” said Dr. Abhay Bang, who is on the State’s Child Mortality Evaluation Committee.

“It’s also a concern that for such a developed State, the child mortality rates are higher than they should be. Maharashtra reports 60-70,000 child deaths a year,” Dr. Bang added.

The survey found that the proportion of malnourished children was almost three times higher in households without food security. It also found that the nutritional status of children from scheduled tribes was relatively worse, followed by scheduled castes and other backward classes. Access to the public distribution system and to agricultural land improved the chances of a household being food secure, it pointed out.