December 4, 2016 9:16:55 pm
The UNICEF has teamed up with the Indian government to conduct the first ever national survey to measure nutrition levels of children in the country. As per the survey, data is being collected to quantify deficiencies of micro nutrients, vitamin and mineral as well as worm infestation among children.
According to UNICEF, the findings of the exercise will start trickling in early next year. A total of 1,20,000 children in the age group of 0-19 years are being surveyed across the country through systematic random sampling as part of the exercise. The survey has been completed in seven states and will be concluded in another five states by the end of this year, it said.
All the states of the country are expected to be covered by the end of 2017. UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist Jee Hyun Rah explained how lack of data leads to gaps in government policies which can be addressed through this comprehensive ‘National Nutrition Survey’.
“In terms of nutritional aspect, there is just one intervention from the Government of India in order to fight anaemia, which is by providing folic acid and iron supplements. But anaemia is caused not merely because of iron deficiency, but also due to a whole bunch of nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin A, folic acid, zinc and even protein deficiency. Apart from this, there is a whole spectrum of infection as well as worm infestation,” Rah said.
“The reason why there is no intervention for these multiple deficiencies is that we do not know where the population stands in terms of mineral and vitamin requirements,” the official said.
UNICEF said indicators for over-nutrition (which causes obesity and diabetes) are also being calculated through body composition and fat distribution as part of the study. Importantly, association between lack of nourishment and its impact on school readiness, cognitive development and educational outcomes will also be determined, it said.
The global body said while surveys of this nature carried out at state levels in India have so far only studied measurements and proportions of human body like height, weight and mid-upper arm circumference, this time, blood, urine and stool samples are being collected as well. UNICEF said a fact sheet of specific indicators for each state where the survey has been completed will be released early next year.
A committee comprising of national experts and chaired by the Health Ministry will decide the specific indicators to be included in the fact sheet as well as the cut-offs to be used to define deficiency.
“We will have state-specific data sets. We will need to coordinate with respective state governments to devise suitable response as well as guidelines for intervention. Also, nutrition is linked to health, sanitation, cultural practices, social norms and all these need to be taken into account,” Henriette Ahrens, Deputy Representative-Programme, UNICEF said.
The survey is being funded by Aditya Mittal, Group CFO and CEO Europe ArcelorMittal, along with his wife Megha Mittal. They have contributed nearly USD 10 million for the initiative.
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