According to the World Health Organisation, over 8 lakh children under the age of five died in India due to issues related to malnutrition. Adequate Nutrition is essential for human development. Malnutrition includes both undernutrition as well as over-nutrition and refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in the intake of energy, protein and/or other nutrients.
Malnutrition in children occurs as a complex interplay among various factors like poverty, maternal health illiteracy, diseases like diarrhoea, home environment, dietary practices, hand washing and other hygiene practices, etc. Low birth weight, episode of diarrhoea within the last 6 months and the presence of developmental delay are often associated with malnutrition in most developing nations including India.
While Malnutrition and Infant Mortality Rates remain high, the budget allocated for minors, constituting 40% of India’s population remains at a meagre 4%. For example, in the village of Damodar Mohuli in Bihar, the only anganwadi in the village has been non-functional for the past 6 months. The anganwadi worker has not received her salary for this time period, and doesn’t open the centre due to lack of food and medicines. The children are suffering as a result.
A sound foundation is critical for the overall development of a human being. In fact, 90% development of the brain occurs within 5-6 years of age. Thus, to ensure a right start to life, early childhood care and learning is exceedingly important. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is one of the largest public service schemes in India catering to the need of children below the age of 6 years. This scheme, implemented from 1,974 onwards, has the potential to have the most comprehensive coverage.
Reasons for malnutrition
- A low intake of food
Some people develop malnutrition because there is not enough food available or because they have difficulty eating or absorbing nutrients.
- Social and mobility problems
There are actors that can affect a person’s eating habits and potentially lead to malnutrition, such as disability to move, limited cooking skills etc.
- Digestive disorders and stomach conditions
If the body does not absorb nutrients efficiently, even a healthful diet may not prevent malnutrition.
Types of malnutrition
Children are defined as wasted if their weight- to- height is way below the standard ratio set by WHO.
Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is less than standard ratio.
An underweight person is a person whose body weight is considered too low to be healthy. If a person is underweight, their body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to build healthy bones, skin and hair.
CRY (Child Rights and You) realises this issue and works at the grassroots level with its partner organisations to ensure that communities become aware about malnutrition and informed about the situation of children and act towards bringing a positive change.
CRY’s efforts to prevent malnutrition and eradicate it from the roots focuses on the following:
- The pregnant mother, because with proper prenatal care, adequate food and timely health check-ups, a pregnant woman stays fit and gives birth a healthy child. Without it she transfers her ill-health to her unborn child, and sets off a cycle of malnourishment.
- Proper immunisation procedure, as lack of healthcare during the first two years of a child’s life can contribute to a lifetime of ill health. Timely polio drops, immunisation and monitored development, are crucial to preventing malnourishment.
- Wholesome nutrition because it is not enough to feed hunger. Without essential micronutrients like iodine, iron and vitamins, children suffer brain damage, night blindness, rickets, anaemia and even heart failure.
“Don’t waste food, someone is sleeping empty stomach.”-Omer Syed
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