Sahana Charan

Not much progress in the area of maternal and child health, says survey

  • Only 64.8 p.c. of children under three who suffer from diarrhoea have access to health facility
  • Budgetary allocation for health in State has gradually declined

    Bangalore: In a State which prides itself for its edge in information technology and is being promoted as a medical tourism destination, only 64.8 per cent of children under three years who suffer from diarrhoea have access to a health facility while a mere 31 per cent receive oral rehydration salts (ORS).

    The National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3) findings for 2005-2006 for Karnataka, reveals that the State has not shown much improvement when it comes to health indices compared to NFHS-2 conducted in 1998-99, especially in the area of maternal and child health.

    According to the survey, even though the infant mortality rate in the State has come down from 52 per cent in NFHS-2 to 43 per cent in NFHS-3, vaccination coverage has come down from 60 per cent to 55 per cent.

    What is startling is that as many as 82.7 per cent of children in the six to 35 months age group were found to be anaemic compared to 70.6 per cent in NFHS-2 and 38 per cent of children under three have stunted growth. Moreover, while 59.5 per cent of pregnant women suffered from anaemia, which is an increase of almost 11 per cent from the last survey, only 40 per cent of them received folic acid supplement when they were pregnant (folic acid helps prevent development anomalies in the foetus).

    "The declining health and nutrition patterns are indicative of the people's decreasing access to food, healthcare, and other public services," said Naveen Thomas of the Community Health Cell, a voluntary organisation working in the area of public health.

    The key findings of the survey can also be linked to the decreasing allocation of resources to health in the State budget over the years. In Karnataka, the Government's allocation for health has gradually declined from 5.85 per cent of the total expenditure in 1998 to 5.11 per cent in 2001, 4.17 per cent in 2003 and 3.49 and 3.73 per cent respectively in 2005 and 2006.

    In comparison, other southern States have spent slightly more on health Kerala's budgetary allocation for health was 5.08 per cent of the total Government expenditure in 2006, while Tamil Nadu's allocation was 4.76 per cent to health.

    "With governments reducing their spending and outreach on health services, public distribution system and other social sectors, this trend is only bound to increase.

    The Human Development Report 2006 shows that public expenditure on health in India (1.2 per cent) is among the lowest in the world. Only 12 countries out of the listed 177 spend less than us," Mr. Thomas added.