Kerala faces a hidden hunger problem

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Compare the children under four in Jammu and Kashmir, affected by the crisis, and Kerala, calm down. Normally, one would say that the prevalence of would be higher in children in J&K. However, children there are better than those in terms of prevalence of malnutrition.

One in five children in the state (20.5%) is malnourished, according to the National Comprehensive Nutrition Survey (CNNS), which was published a few months ago. The corresponding rate for Kashmir children was 15.5%. Kerala is behind J&K, Goa (19.6%) and TN (19.7%) in this category.

Reports of six children, under the age of seven, who face hunger in Kaithamukku in the capital shocked many. But, health workers were not surprised to meet these children, often in families around us. Although Kerala has a high health rate, it is worth noting that the economic imbalance and related nutrition problems are nothing new for the marginalized sections here.

On the other hand, about 9.5% of adolescents (10 to 19 years old) in Kerala are overweight, while the national average is 4.8%. The survey also found that 32.2% in the age group 10-19 years have pre-diabetic condition. In the age group of 5 to 9 years, it is 18.7%. The survey noted that the prevalence of high total cholesterol was 15% among children in the age group of 5 to 9 years and 13.9% in the age group of 10 to 19 years.

Ajay Kumar, executive director of Rights (an NGO) working for the empowerment of the SC/ST community, said that the majority of malnourished children came from SC/CT families according to their study. “When the results of the national family health survey were published, our policy makers tried to address the issue of childhood obesity. No one was worried about malnourished children. Our officials know that almost all malnourished children are from SC/ST families. They conveniently ignore that, he said.

Nationally, CNNS found that when it came to children with low weight, the ST figure was 42% and SC 36%, followed by OBC (33%) and other groups (27%). In addition, the state economic review had indicated that 8.5 lakh of keralites fell into the BPL category in 2018.

An important health defect observed in the survey was vitamin A deficiency among children in the age group of 5 to 9 years. Against the national average of 17% of children with low weight in children under four years, the figure of Kerala was 12.6%. Among the states with the lowest prevalence, Kerala came ninth.

In other significant data, only 32.6% of children (aged 6 to 23 months) received a minimum acceptable diet. Here the state, came in second place after Sikkim (35.9%). In Kerala, the minimum dietary diversity is 52.8%, the minimum frequency of meals is 65.9% and the consumption of iron-rich foods is 37.4% for children in this category.

The survey found that children of mothers with higher education had access to better food. He noted that food consumption patterns varied with the mother's school status and household wealth among children and adolescents who go to school. The consumption of milk/curd, fruits, eggs and fish/chicken/meat increased with higher levels of maternal education and family wealth.

The main objective of CNNS was to collect nationally representative data on the nutritional status of preschoolers (0–4 years), school-age children (5–9 years) and adolescents (10–19 years) through interviews, a set Integral of anthropometric measurements. and biochemical indicators.