Dramatic drop in number of underfed children: UNICEF

Despite remarkable improvements in child nutrition over the last decade in India, some States, such as Gujarat, have struggled to reduce the numbers of underweight and stunted children, new data show.

Last October and November, The Hindu reported the national-level findings of the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), a sample survey of over one lakh households conducted by the UNICEF. Those numbers showed that both child stunting and the number of underweight children had fallen to a historic low — from 48 per cent in 2004-05 to 39 per cent in 2013-14 in the case of stunting and from 42.5 per cent to 30 per cent in the case of underweight children. This week, The Hindu obtained the full RSOC report, including the State-level findings. None of the numbers has been officially released yet.

Over 50% of children under five stunted in U.P.

Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Tripura are the only States which have reduced the proportion of underweight adolescent girls according to the findings of the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), a nation-wide sample survey of over one lakh households conducted by the UNICEF.

The State-level numbers reveal that while some States have made remarkable progress in battling child malnourishment, others have made little progress despite a decade of high growth. Among the developed States, Gujarat is the only one to perform worse than the national average in reducing the numbers of child stunting cases and underweight children.

Almost all States have performed poorly in reducing the number of underweight adolescent girls.

Uttar Pradesh still has the highest levels of child stunting, with over 50 per cent of the children under the age of five underdeveloped, meaning that their height is more than two standard deviations less than the expected height for their age for that population.

Jharkhand, meanwhile, has the highest number of underweight children under the age of five, meaning their weight for age is more than two standard deviations less than what would be expected.

Kerala remains the best performing State in the number of child stunting cases, while Manipur and Mizoram have the lowest numbers of underweight children.

Delhi and Mizoram reduced child stunting at the fastest rate between 2004-05 — when the last official National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) was conducted — and 2013-14.

While Madhya Pradesh and Bihar still have high levels of underweight children, both States reduced these numbers at fast rates along with Himachal Pradesh.

No State reported an increase in the proportion of children underweight or stunted, a significant reversal from past trends.

The RSOC findings show that at the national level, stunting is higher in rural areas (41.7 per cent) than in urban areas (32.1 per cent), as is the case for underweight children.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 2:45:33 AM |

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