Saturday, August 4, 2012

At least one quarter of babies in 9 states are born underweight in EAG and Assam States of India

The Annual Health Survey (AHS) was conducted by in 284 districts of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and these nine states of Northern/ Central/ Eastern of India houses nearly half of the country's population.  It is seen that a generation of condemned children are currently growing up as at least a quarter of the children born in these states are born with less than 2.5 killograms in weight.  The children are born over the years (2007-09) and only very few newborns are weighed at birth.  The above figure is for those who were weighed and reported by the respondents (parents).  On an average only about half of the newborns are weighed at birth in these states according to AHS Factsheets. In two of the poorest states, UP and Bihar, only 26 percent and 32 percent of newborns respectively, were weighed. A large chunk of deliveries are getting done at home and most of these parents are from poorer and uneducated sections. Thus, the proportion of underweight newborns would be much higher.
For the reported ones, in some states like Rajasthan, the proportion was as high as 39 percent with Jharkhand not far behind with about 36 percent children born underweight. In Madhya Pradesh and UP about 28 percent of newborns are underweight while in Bihar and Odisha about 22 percent fall in this category. As expected, in all the surveyed states, share of underweight newborn babies is more in rural areas than in urban areas. In Jharkhand the urban rate is 32 percent compared to a rural rate of 39 percent. In Rajasthan, the urban rate of underweight newborns is 31 percent which shoots up to a shocking 42 percent in rural areas. In UP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Assam there is hardly any notable difference between underweight rates in rural and urban areas.
In India, according to the last estimation done in the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS)-III in 2005-06, the national average for underweight newborns was 22 percent. Results of the recent large scale survey show that except for Chhattisgarh, all the other eight states are still above this mark, almost six years after the NFHS III. The proportion of underweight newborns is less than 5 percent in developed countries. At least this major part of India is far behind.
The main cause for underweight newborns is maternal malnutrition. This is not just restricted to the pregnancy period.  Full ANC of mothers can take care of this aspect. Underweight babies suffer inherently higher risks of malnutrition, disease and even early death. This affects every aspect of the child's development and growth including intellectual development.  Such malnutrition of mothers and then of their newborns is also leading to higher infant mortality and maternal deaths in these nine states of India.  So there is a case for caring these mothers and their malnourished offspring at least for future generation of India.