Little improvement in child nutrition status: survey

Staff Reporter

NFHS III data say 14 to 16% of infants are stunted

Anaemic women in the State has gone up by 10 per cent

Thiruvananthapuram: Child nutrition is an area where the State’s health interventions in the past few years have failed to make any impact, going by the Kerala data given in the report of National Family Health Survey III.

One-quarter of children under the age of five years in the State are stunted or too short for their age, about 16 per cent are wasted or too thin for their height and 23 per cent are underweight, indicating chronic and acute under-nutrition. The NFHS III data say that even during the first six months of life when most babies are breast-fed, 14 to 16 per cent of infants are stunted or underweight and 24 per cent are wasted.

Children’s nutritional status in the State has not made much improvement when the current data are compared with that of NFHS II (1998-99), when 28 per cent of children under three years were found to be stunted, and 22 per cent underweight. The percentage of children who are wasted has in fact gone up from 13 per cent in 1998-99 to 16 per cent now.

The government will have to make strategic interventions and investments in this area to tackle the problem of under-nutrition. Under-five mortality rate in the State is currently 16 per 1,000.

The NFHS data just confirm the problem that paediatricians across the State have been concerned about: that insufficient nutrient intake and wrong feeding practices of infants in the initial months were affecting the nutritional status of children in Kerala

The money spent on good quality nutrition is low in the State. While the government expenditure on nutrition per child is Rs.167 in Tamil Nadu, Kerala’s share is just Rs.72, according to Lulu Mathews, Head of Paediatrics at Kozhikode Medical College.

Anaemia continues to be a major health problem in Kerala, with one-third of the women being anaemic, according to NFHS III.

The percentage of anaemic women in the State has gone up by 10 per cent from the last survey.

Among pregnant women, 35 per cent are anaemic. Anaemia can result in maternal mortality, increased morbidity from infectious diseases and low birth weight babies.

Increasing anaemia among women and poor quality of anti-natal care can thus ultimately reflect in the State’s maternal mortality rate, says Additional Director of Health Services (FW) P. K. Jameela.


The status of poor child and adult nutrition in the State should be interpreted along with the data on the coverage of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in Kerala, which had been launched nation-wide in the 1970s to specifically tackle the issues of child and maternal nutrition.

NHFS III report says that while the entire State has a good network of anganwadis, only 31 per cent of women or children have received any service from anganwadis.

About 82 per cent of pregnant women and 89 per cent of breastfeeding women did not receive any service from anganwadis, a reflection of the poor uptake of services, which could also be due to poor quality of services available through these centres.

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