The National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS) released on May 3 showed that 35% of children under the age of five in Karnataka are stunted despite state government schemes like mid-day meals and Ksheera Bhagya, the Deccan Herald reported.
While babies born to thin mothers are stunted, stunting is highly widespread in rural areas than in urban areas. Stunting or low height is a sign of chronic under-nutrition and it hints that the damage due to poor nutrition is irreversible.
Dr. S Saldanha, Gynaecologist and trainer in child protection at Bengaluru’s Acura Hospital spoke about the findings with Deccan Herald, saying the findings reflected two primary factors: “First, the 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, Dr. Saldanha explained that 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.
Akhila Vasan Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali co-convener told DH the results weren’t surprising. “Forty-odd percent of pregnant women are anemic. Barely 11% of infants get adequate food. The quality of mid-day meals is very poor. There is no protein content at all.”
In midday meals, she said 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,” Vasan added.