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Every third kid under 5 is stunted in Karnataka, shows NHFS data

Under the National Food Security Act, vulnerable groups such as children up to 14 years, adolescent girls and pregnant/postpartum women are legally entitled to food
uraksha P
Last Updated : 16 May 2022, 03:33 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2022, 03:33 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2022, 03:33 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2022, 03:33 IST

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Despite state government schemes like mid-day meals and Ksheera Bhagya, 35% of children under the age of five in Karnataka are stunted, just 1% less than the national average of 36%, as per the National Family Health Survey-5, which was released on May 3.

Kids born to thin mothers are stunted and the prevalence of stunting is higher in rural areas than urban areas. Stunting or low height for age is a sign of chronic under-nutrition.

Talking about the findings, Dr S Saldanha, gynaecologist and trainer in child protection at Bengaluru’s Acura Hospital, said they reflected two primary factors: long-term malnutrition and subsistence-level food intake for generations in both rural and urban lower socio-economic groups, i.e., parents and siblings of these children would be undernourished, too.

Secondly, during the pandemic in the last two years, government actions and the economic downturn have led to an increase in the prices of nutritious foods like pulses, oils, and plant and non-vegetarian foods, further accentuating the chronic malnutrition, she explained. Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali co-convener Akhila Vasan said the results weren’t surprising.

Forty-odd per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. Barely 11% of infants get adequate food. The quality of mid-day meals is very poor. There is no protein content at all, she added. “In midday meals, they do not provide eggs and don’t even add onions or garlic to the food. It is taking a toll on several generations of poor children whose futures are at stake,” she said.

Stunting indicates that the damage due to poor nutrition is irreversible.

“Stunting also impacts scholastic achievement. This means that more than one-third of children will not be able to cope with scholastic requirements,” Vasan said. “Simply put, their futures are in jeopardy.”

Public health activist Dr Sylvia Karpagam said: “Chronic under-nutrition is a grave concern in Karnataka and is likely to have worsened with the pandemic and the lockdown, with the loss of livelihood, displacement, shutting down of public transport, access to basic healthcare such as immunisation, and more importantly, breakdown in social security schemes such as pensions, ICDS and midday meals.”

Under the National Food Security Act, vulnerable groups such as children up to 14 years, adolescent girls and pregnant/postpartum women are legally entitled to food and this is not being met, she said.

“Even food has been reduced to cereal and millet with very poor diversity, and growing criminalisation of all animal source foods, other than milk and dairy. These can worsen even the existing indicators, so we need to demand that decisions on food and nutrition should be based on evidence, science and data such as NFHS and CNNS rather than other considerations,” Karpagam said.

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Published 15 May 2022, 19:38 IST

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