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Gujarat state mired in malnutrition woes

Posted:  Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Malnutrition poses an enormous public health challenge world over. The Indian state of Gujarat in particular is reeling under its effect. Health officials have confirmed that more than 1.45 lakh children under the age of six years are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the state.

These alarming figures were brought to light by the state government initiated programme Kuposhan Mukt Gujarat Maha Abhiyan which was inaugurated by the state Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. Further compounding this dismal scenario is the fact that out of the 1.45 lakh afflicted children, over 6,600 have been experiencing a number of malnutrition-linked complications. Data gathered under the School Health Programme (SHP) revealed high rates of malnutrition even among school children.

What’s more, government measures to curb this growing malady among children appear to be a failure. The proportion of children with anaemia and malnutrition has increased by nearly one lakh over the last three years. The 2015 annual SHP report cut a sorry figure revealing over 5.13 lakh malnourished and anaemic children, a higher number than the previous 2012-2013 figures. Malnutrition and anaemia also had the highest incidence among the 17 diseases identified under the SHP.

To get a grip on this out of hand situation, the government screened children and offered immediate treatment. These measures were part of the first phase of the government’s campaign against malnutrition. A total of 43 lakh children have been screened thus far. Following up these cases will form the second phase of the campaign and will start from January 2016.

A glimmer of hope in this dreary scenario was a special growth parameter developed by a team of paediatricians for screening the children to detect standard deviations in growth. This is thought to have facilitated timely treatment of malnutrition and prevented severe disabilities and neurological damage. Describing the parameter, an expert affiliated to the Gujarat state chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics said, “One of the important aspects of any disease or deficiency is its proper and timely diagnosis. This parameter developed by a team of paediatrics can detect certain congenital, endocrinal, constitutional and nutritional deficiency or defect in early childhood, leading to malnutrition either underweight or overweight (obesity) in children at an early stage”.

In an effort to improve the child health situation in the state, the Gujarat education department continues to provide anganwadi children with supplements, and has commenced supply of flavoured milk to 4.13 lakh students under the ‘dudh sanjivani’ programme. These students belong to 2,678 government schools in 19 talukas of 10 economically backward districts.

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