Over 50 per cent children under five years of age are anaemic in West Bengal, as per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4 for 2015-16) data.
“In West Bengal, though the number of children under five years of age suffering from anaemia decreased by seven per cent points over the last decade (from 61 per cent in 2005-06 to 54.2 per cent in 2015-16), one in every two children is still anaemic,” Atindra Nath Das, Regional Director (East), Child Rights and You told PTI while quoting from the report.
Mothers do not fare any better than children in this regard either, as more than 60 per cent of all women and 53.2 per cent of pregnant women were found anaemic in the state, the survey revealed.
“The nutritional status of children in West Bengal is found to have improved only marginally, in comparison to that of the previous NFHS data published almost a decade ago,” Das said.
The much-awaited survey on India’s health indicators was released by the Health Ministry recently, after almost a decade.
While the report indicates an improvement in the overall health of children, the rate of progression on annual basis was alarming.
Besides child malnutrition, quality of ante-natal and delivery care for expecting mothers also showed worrying trends negatively impacting child-health in the state, as findings of the recent survey suggested.
However, overall findings of the first phase of the NFHS-4 show marginal improvement in the maternal and child health and nutrition across 13 states and two UTs.
Even though West Bengal has done fairly well in several child health and nutrition indicators like immunisation and treatment of critical childhood diseases, the progression rate of critical indicators like child nutrition, which has direct linkage with children’s overall growth and development, remained far below than expectation, Das said.
“The NFHS is not just a reflection of the state of health and nutritional wellbeing of children, but it also provides a direction for corrective measures in state policies and programmes,” he added.
According to the report, the data for West Bengal reinforced the need for the state to address nutritional security of children and expecting mothers as an emergency.
“In the context of malnutrition, strengthening of Anganwadi centres and a robust system of growth monitoring, becomes imperative,” Das said.
NFHS findings give three sets of data as child malnutrition indicators – stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height) and underweight (low weight for age).
While the percentage of stunted children in West Bengal has decreased by only 12 per cent over the last decade (from 44.6 per cent in 2005-06 to 32.5 per cent in 2015-16), percentage of wasted and severely wasted children increased by almost four per cent (from 16.9 per cent to 20.3 per cent) and two per cent (from 4.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent) over the same period of time.
“More worrying is the fact that of all children in West Bengal, one in every three (31.5) is still underweight. This percentage was 38.7 in 2005-06,” the report said.
As per the NFHS findings, anaemia in children was found to have decreased marginally across most of the states, but still remained worryingly widespread.
The poor status of consumption of Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplements and lack of proper ante-natal care for expecting mothers were also areas of concern, the report said.
“Only 28.1 per cent of mothers consumed Iron-Folic during pregnancy and only 21.8 per cent of them had full ante-natal care. These data suggest that in West Bengal, quality maternity care is still a distant cry,” Das said.
Also the average Out Of Pocket Expenditure (OOPE) per delivery in public health facilities stood at Rs 7,782 in West Bengal, which was remarkably high in comparison to that of other states.
Data also revealed that nine out of 11 states have not been able to reduce the infant mortality rate even by two percentage points annually.
As per the analysis of critical child health indicators of NFHS-4 done by CRY, the only two states to sustain a pace of annual reduction in IMR by two points were West Bengal and Tripura.
Currently in India, 40 out of 1,000 infants don’t celebrate their first birthday. The status of nutrition for children under five years of age shows marginal improvement, the report said.
Mission Indradhanush, the national initiative aimed at achieving cent per cent immunisation, seemed to be a distant dream in light of the status of immunisation revealed by NFHS, Das said.
In eight out of 11 states (Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Karnataka, Goa, MP and Sikkim) of the country, one out of three children do not receive full immunisation.