Bihar, Jharkhand children ‘undernourished,’ says NGO

Analysis of NFHS-4 data by CRY shows just over 7% get adequate diet

April 05, 2017 11:49 pm | Updated 11:50 pm IST - PATNA

A child with its mother at a hospital nutritional rehabilitation centre in Darbhanga, Bihar.

A child with its mother at a hospital nutritional rehabilitation centre in Darbhanga, Bihar.

In Bihar and Jharkhand, nine out of every 10 children aged 6-23 do not get an adequate diet. The nutrition and health status of children in these two States has been found to be “critically low” in comparison to the national standard.

According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4, 2015-16) data, only 7.5% and 7.2% of children in Bihar and Jharkhand respectively in this age group receive an adequate diet, according to a trend analysis of the NFHS-4 data released by the NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY). The comparative figure in the case of Tamil Nadu, for instance, is 31%.

CRY’s findings indicate that inadequate provision of quality antenatal care, and the States’ failure to address the special nutritional requirements of expecting and lactating mothers are negatively affecting child health.

“Malnourishment in early years is directly linked to maternal health…only 3.3% of mothers in Bihar and 8% of mothers in Jharkhand had access to full antenatal care services,” said a CRY release on its trend analysis. “Moreover, more than one-third of the total births in the two States continue to remain home births.”

The NFHS-4 data on child-feeding practices and the nutritional status of children further suggest that almost two-thirds of children under the age of three years in these two States (65% in Bihar and 67% in Jharkhand) are not breastfed within the first hour of birth, noted the CRY analysis. “Child malnutrition is an irreversible phenomenon in the lives of children. Its effects are felt through adolescent and adult life”, said Ms. Mohua Chatterjee, a programme head at CRY.

Acute anaemia

The analysis also observed that almost two-thirds of children (63.5% in Bihar and 69.9% in Jharkhand) aged 6-59 months were suffering from acute anaemia. The prevalence of anaemia among a high percentage of pregnant women in the age-group of 15-49 years (62.6% in Jharkhand and 58.3% in Bihar) further indicates that juvenile anaemia is merely a manifestation of the malnutrition-cycle transmitted through generations, thereby extending the legacy of under-nutrition. Further, the data on maternal health also revealed that only 9% of pregnant women in Bihar and 15% of pregnant women in Jharkhand consumed iron and folic acid supplements for hundred days or more during pregnancy.

“An adequate diet in terms of quality and quantity for a child below 6 months means that she is exclusively breastfed. For children aged 6-23 months, it means that they receive solid/semi-solid food comprising five nutrient groups (carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals) along with the breast milk,” said Mr. Abhik Bhattacharya, senior manager for policy and advocacy at CRY.

On the positive side, both Bihar and Jharkhand have done well in several child health and nutrition indicators such as institutional delivery, immunisation, and treatment of critical childhood diseases.

“A comparative analysis between NFHS-4 and NFHS-3 data suggests that institutional deliveries were less than 20% in Bihar and Jharkhand a decade ago (2005-06). They have now risen to around 60% of total births. But the rate of progress in critical indicators such as child nutrition, which has a direct linkage with a child’s overall growth and development, remains far below expectations,” noted the analysis.

“The NFHS-4 findings are not just a reflection of the nutritional well-being of children and expecting mothers. They also point in the direction we need to take for corrective measures in State policies and programmes on child health,” said Mr. Atindra Nath Das, a regional director at CRY.

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