New Delhi: India contributes a third of the global burden of undernutrition. A third of the women of reproductive age in India are undernourished, and an undernourished mother inevitably gives birth to an undernourished baby, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of undernutrition. 37-year-old Shaheena lives in Kamali village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district. She lost her first child in 2005 after delivery. Her second baby who came along 1.5 years later, also had to struggle to survive because of low birth weight and health complications. But both the mother and child survived. Shaheena had been weak and anaemic mother and the lack of nutrition aggravated her complications during pregnancy and even post that her babies were born weak and undernourished, costing the life on one of them.
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Child malnutrition is the single biggest contributor to mortality under-five years of age. This is due to greater susceptibility to infections and slow recovery from illness. Forty three per cent of Indian children under five years are underweight and 48 percent are stunted due to chronic undernutrition. Maternal malnutrition increases the risk of poor pregnancy. Shaheena told NDTV,
My first child died and second was serious then I had two set of twins. Though I was serious after giving birth to the twins but with medication and treatment I got better and even the anganwadi helped a lot.
Shaheena had given birth to four children in the span of 12 years before her second set of twins, Sameer and Asfar were born in 2017. The poor condition of her health passed on to her children, who were all malnourished. With intervention, today both the boys aged 1.5 years have moved from severe malnourished condition to moderate state of malnutrition.
Anganwadi workers and Asha Didis take care of children under three by focusing on issues like counselling about breastfeeding, nutrition and learning needs, combined with effective pre-school education. Rambhavati played a crucial role in improving Sameer’s health.
Sameer was very weak, barely 2 kg at birth, so we told the mother that he is in the severe malnourished category and asked her to take care of his health and only because Shaheena followed advice and took care of his diet, he has come to the yellow category, said, Rambhavati, Kamali Aaganwadi incharge.
Categories Of Malnutrition
Red category - Severe Malnutrition
Yellow category - Moderate Malnutrition
Green category - Properly Nourished
Today Sameer is doing much better. He is still malnourished but on his way to becoming healthy. The first one thousand days, which starts at the moment of pregnancy till the child turns two, is a key to the survival of both mother and child and their future good health.