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More than half of children in Vikramgad kids are stunted: study

Cause for worry: Stunting is calculated based on height-for-age and wasting is calculated by weight-for-height. (Top) An assessment being carried out in Vikramgad.  

A diet of dal and rice in all three meals and zero intake of leafy vegetables, fruits, milk, fish, and eggs have proved to be a major setback for the tribal children from Vikramgad in Palghar district. A study published in the PLOS ONE journal on Wednesday has revealed that nearly 59% of children between one and six years of age suffered from stunting, an indicator of long-term and chronic nutritional deprivation.

The study was conducted between April and June 2017 on 375 tribal children from the Vikramgad block of Palghar district. The findings revealed that the overall prevalence of wasting and underweight children in the area was 20% and 53% respectively. While stunting is calculated based on height-for-age, wasting is calculated by weight-for-height and ‘underweight’ is calculated by the weight-for-age formula. “The high prevalence of stunting is extremely worrisome as it suggests the prolonged nutritional deficits that these children have been suffering from,” said Dr. Soumitra Ghosh, a professor from the School of Health System Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who carried out the study along with Dr. Sarika Varerkar, a former public health student from the institute.

Palghar has been in the news for malnutrition since 2005, when 718 child deaths were reported from the area. In 2016, the number of deaths stood at 600. “The State announced a slew of measures to address child malnutrition in tribal- dominated areas. There has not been any study to check whether the nutritional scenario has improved since then in Palghar,” the paper points out. The assessment of nutritional status was carried out using the 2006 World Health Organisation Child Growth Standard.

Dr. Ghosh said studying diet diversity was an important aspect of the paper. For this, the food eaten by the children during the last 24 hours before the survey date was classified into eight food groups: the first, cereals, roots and tubers; the second, legumes and nuts; the third, dairy products; the fourth, flesh foods; the fifth, eggs; the sixth, fish; the seventh, dark green leafy vegetables, and the eighth, fruits and other vegetables.

While a child should consume food from a minimum of four groups to meet the daily energy and nutrient requirements, nearly 83% of children from Vikramgad were eating from three or fewer food groups. “They consumed dal and rice most of the time, which is extremely inadequate,” said Dr. Ghosh. Jawahar and Mokhada from Palghar district have always been in the news for malnutrition but Vikramgad, with similar problems, has not received enough attention. “This is why we chose this block for our study,” he said.

Key facts

  • The Palghar district consists of eight talukas: Mokhada, Talasari, Vasai, Vikramgad, Jawhar, Palghar, Dahanu and Wada.
  • The district has a large number of tribal villages, hamlets and small fishing villages.
  • Vikramgad block is a scheduled area as a majority of the inhabitants of this block are tribals.
  • Warli, Katkari and Malhar Koli are the tribal groups in Palghar district.
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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 12:25:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/more-than-half-of-children-in-vikramgad-kids-are-stunted-study/article26401490.ece

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