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What Does The Latest National Family Health Survey Reveal About The Nutritional Status Of India?

The government on Wednesday, November 24, released the factsheets of key indicators, including nutrition, for India clubbed under phase two, of the 2019-21 NFHS-5

What Does The Latest National Family Health Survey Reveal About The Nutritional Status Of India?
The children need a safe and dignified place to survive and thrive: Expert

New Delhi: The fifth and the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has shown that the percentage of anaemic individuals, as well as obese children and adults, rose in India in the last five years. Moreover, as per the survey, several of India’s nutritional indicators have showed very minor improvement, since the fourth round of the NFHS, which was conducted in 2015-16.

The government on Wednesday, November 24, released the factsheets of key indicators, including nutrition, for India and 14 states and UTs, clubbed under phase two of the NFHS-5 conducted between 2019-2021. Here are the main highlights from NFHS 5 compared to the findings of the previous edition of the survey done between 2015-16:

  1. Stunting (low height-for-age) among the kids under the age of 5, declined from 38 per cent (NFHS-4) to 36 per cent.
  2. Wasting (low weight-for-height) among the kids under the age of 5, has come down from 21 per cent (NFHS – 4) to 19 per cent.
  3. When it comes to underweight children, there has been a decline from 36 per cent (NFHS-4) to 32 percent in NFHS-5.
  4. Children under the age of 5, who are overweight has increased from 2.1 per cent (NFHS-4) to 3.4 per cent.
  5. Children aged 6-59 months who are anaemic in India has increased from 58.6 per cent in 2015-2016 to 67.1 per cent in 2019-2021.
  6. Women aged between 15-49 years who have anaemia has also increased from 53.1 per cent in 2015-2016 to 57 per cent in 2019-2021.
  7. Exclusive breastfeeding to children under six months of age has shown an improvement at an all-India level from 55 per cent in 2015-16 to 64 per cent in 2019-21.
  8. Institutional births have increased substantially from 79 per cent to 89 per cent at an all-India level.
  9. The all-India Infant mortality rate (IMR) (per 1000 live births) has come down from 40.7 to 35.2.
  10. Neo-mortality rate in India has also shown a decline from 29.5 per cent in NFHS-4 to 24.9 per cent in NFHS-5.

Experts Take On The Current Nutritional Status In India

Basanta Kumar Kar, Recipient of the Global Nutrition Leadership Award says that the results from the NFHS 5 calls for emergent actions on addressing rising double burden on malnutrition – an impending famine impairing the humanity. Mr Kar tells NDTV,

The results provide an early warning sign – the way it is progressing, it would be difficult to achieve the Poshan Abhiyan and UN Sustainable Development Goal targets. My analysis says that India needs doubling, tripling or quadrupling efforts in many indicators to achieve Poshan Abhiyaan and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Today, India’s population suffer from all forms of malnutrition and hunger- calorie, protein and hidden Hunger ( micronutrient deficiencies are popularly known as hidden hunger). We need to strategise our thinking and actions to address all forms of hunger and malnutrition.

Mr Kar says that now, the time has come to realise this impending famine and addressing the malnutrition holistically; addressing the root and structural causes- gender inequality, deprivations and high level of exclusions, poor governance and entitlements, economic constraints, myths and misconceptions.

The children need a safe and dignified place to survive and thrive. The first 1000 days of life starting from conception to two years of age as first window of opportunity and adolescent girls as second window of opportunity need to be prioritised. The convergence has always been a challenge. The quality home contacts and inter- personal counselling and Village Health Nutrition Sanitation and Health Day ( VHNSD) as a grassroot forum for convergence will be key to prevent nutrition disruption and spread nutrition message.

Mr Kar asserts that nutrition must be part of a household name and our ideology and that India needs a Nutrition Revolution with women leading at the front.

The Jan Andolan already mandated under Poshan Abhiyan needs a big push. The local government bodies, women self help groups and Anganwadis need to work together. India’s more than 3.5 million women nutrition warriors need to work in a mission mode for a Mission Malnutrition Free India. It is all about fighting malnutrition together.

Dipa Sinha, Assistant professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi from Right to Food Campaign also tells NDTV that the rise of anaemia and obesity in India is a serious cause of concern.

Clearly the NFHS 5 doesn’t show improvements as per the Poshan Abhiyan goals. We have very slow improvements at the moment. We need to target the exact districts, castes, tribes, who are the most vulnerable and where the nutrition outcomes are lacking.

When it comes to the status of institutional deliveries, Ms Sinha says that this figure has been gradually increasing for quite some time and it is a positive outcome. She also flags the minor improvement in breastfeeding and says that we should have seen better outcomes on that front as well.

This edition of NFHS shows that our commitment towards improving nutrition has to go up much more. There was a lot of noise in the past 5 years due to Poshan Abhiyan, but it didn’t turn out to be enough as it is an awareness campaign. We need to invest more in nutrition, we need more resources to ensure significant improvement in India’s nutritional status, Ms Sinha signed out.

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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