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13 Deaths A Reminder Of Malnutrition in India’s Most Industrialised State

Prachi Salve,
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Children having lunch at a malnutrition treatment centre in a slum in Mumbai. Widespread malnutrition in Maharashtra was brought to the fore again with the deaths of 13 children in the last two months in the tribal district of Palghar, less than 100 km to the north of Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

 

Nearly half of all children under five are stunted–short for their age, a sign of malnutrition–in Nandurbar (47.6%) and Yavatmal (47.4%) districts of Maharashtra, India’s most industrialised state, a rate higher than war-torn Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.

 

Widespread malnutrition in Maharashtra was brought to the fore again with the deaths of 13 children in the last two months in the tribal district of Palghar, less than 100 km to the north of Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

 

Up to 22.2% of children under five are wasted–short and underweight for their age–in Gadchiroli district, a rate equivalent to poverty- and conflict-stricken South Sudan in Africa, and 55.4% of children are underweight in the district of Nandurbar, the same rate as Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopuri district, which reports India’s worst malnutrition, according to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS 4).

 

Stunting, wasting and underweight together determine malnutrition among children. Malnutrition, which has long-term consequences on sensory, cognitive, social and emotional development, has fallen, on average, across India from 42.4% to 29.4% over 19 years, to 37.9 million children under five.

 

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Source: National Family Health Survey 4 and World Health Organisation; figures in %

 

In Sangli district, 23.3% of children under five are stunted, the same rate as in South Africa, while 21.3% are stunted in Mumbai’s suburban district, equivalent to Cabo Verde, a North east African nation that recently made it to middle-income ranks, according to 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) data.

 

graph-2-desktop

Source: National Family Health Survey 4 and World Health Organisation; figures in %

 

The tribal district of Gadchiroli (22.2%) and Chandrapur (16.1%) report wasting among children under five equivalent to conflict-ridden countries, such as South Sudan and Sudan.

 

At the other end of the scale are some cities, such as Kolhapur, where 5.9% of children under five are wasted, similar to relatively prosperous Bhutan.

 

 

(Salve is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

 

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

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  1. Santanu Chari Reply

    September 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for the article. These points could have helped:

    1. a definition of stunting, wasting for lay men.

    2. Interviews of 2-3 professionals in the field who could put some context to this. e.g. 47% stunting in Nandurbar is a startling figure. How many actual children does this mean? What is the civil society, state ministry of child welfare, and government doing about it? Are other organisations discussing and finding a solution – does it need political will, or just funding? Is there corruption in the spends of the government?

  2. Ravinder Mandayam Reply

    September 23, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    I did not find the international comparison very useful. Whatever be their condition, they are completely different from ours.

    Personally, I would have preferred to see comparisons within Maharashtra in addition to the ones you have made with districts of other states.

    Even there, the comparison should be with districts of similar population, say tribals.

    I am not sure if data was available from NFHS -3 at this level; if yes, a comparison with that would have provided better insight into whether there is any improvement or deterioration.

    I would request you to see whether there are any patterns to be found in the better performing districts, and try and identify the reasons for that.

    For instance, what was the impact of improper monsoon in 2015? That is, whether there is a causal relationship b/w the impact of poor monsoon and poor health of children in a district?

    This is also a pointer towards the variance in the implementation of mid-day meal programme for young children.

  3. Vivek Pandit Reply

    October 2, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Wonderful analysis and very well written. I am struggling on same in Palghar district of Maharashtra. We can make use of information to change policy priorities of the govt.

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