While the richest one percent in India now hold 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth, the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4) results show that over 58% of children below five years of age are anaemic – they suffer from insufficient haemoglobin in the blood, leaving them exhausted, vulnerable to infections, and possibly affecting their brain development.
The Oxfam study on staggering and revolting inequality in India had showed that just 57 billionaires in the country now have same wealth (USD 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of the country.
The family health survey, which was carried out in 2015-16 and covered six lakh households, also showed that around 38% of children in the same age group were stunted, 21% were wasted and 36% underweight.
While all the internationally accepted markers of children’s health have improved since the last such survey in 2005-06, the levels of undernourishment, caused mainly by poverty , are still high and the improvement too slow, the Times of India reported on Monday.
Based on the 2011 Census data, the total number of children under-five in India in 2015 is projected at 12.4 crore. So, around 7.2 crore children are anaemic, nearly 5 crore are stunted, around 2.6 crore are wasted and 4.4 crore are underweight. These numbers are not too different from those in 2005-06. Since population has increased, their share is down.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines wasting as low weight for height, stunting as low height for age, and underweight as low weight for age. It says that high levels of these markers in a population are clear indications of “poor socio-economic conditions“ and “suboptimal health and/or nutritional conditions“. In short, lack of food, unhealthy living conditions and poor health delivery systems.
The survey also found that just over half of all pregnant women were themselves anaemic.This would automatically translate to their newborn being weak and vulnerable. Overall, 53% of women and 23% of men in the 15-49 age group were anaemic.
As always, there is wide variation among states. The data for UP has not been released in view of the ongoing elections, accor ding to Balram Paswan, pro fessor at the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences which was the nodal agency for the survey done for the health ministry . But poorer states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have higher than national average rates on all markers.
More advanced states like those in the south, Haryana and Gujarat have slightly better numbers but are still at unacceptable levels. In Tamil Nadu, 51% kids are anaemic while in Kerala over a third suffer. In West Bengal 55.6% of children in urban areas in the age group of 6yers-59 months and 53.7% in rural areas are anaemic.
In many states, stunting has declined somewhat but the share of severely wasted children (low weight for age) has increased.