Nutritional deficiency – the vulnerable children of Tamil Nadu!

The new-born baby should weigh 2.5 kg to 3 kg minimum without any complication.

Nutritional deficiency – the vulnerable children of Tamil Nadu!
Nutritional deficiency – the vulnerable children of Tamil Nadu!

In today’s context, over-weight and obesity are the most challenging health hazards facing humanity. Equally so is the nutritional deficiency being faced by developing nations like India at the global level. As far as India is concerned, the infant mortality rate from the age group of just-born to 5 years has certainly got reduced in the last ten years. However, the recent statistical data reveal that India is home to nearly 50% of the children affected by nutritional deficiency worldwide.

As revealed by the National Family and Health Survey, nearly 38% of the population has since been affected by malnutrition in India. States-wise, Bihar, UP and Jharkant have been affected more. Tamil Nadu shows 27% of affected people. The most crucial and sensitive information is that nearly 72% of the children are affected by anaemia owing to nutritional deficiency.

Though parents have great dreams about the future of their children, it is restricted to their educational and professional career including their status in the society. While it is good to aim for the welfare and prosperity of their children, it should not be at the expense of their basic health. A good health is fundamental which they seem to have ignored, as a result of which, the children are forced to face certain health problems such as lack of proper growth, nutritional deficiency etc.

Common reasons for nutritional deficiency:-

Children’s Welfare Counsellor Devaneyan mentions that the so-called nutritional deficiency starts from the womb of the mother when she is pregnant. It is rather common that many pregnant women suffer from anaemia and when they deliver the baby, it is either short-weight or/and anaemic in nature. Therefore, it is essential that the pregnant mothers should be fed with good nutritional diet right from conception to post-delivery so that the infant mortality rate can be kept under control.

Devaneyan further emphasises that during the golden age up to 5 years of the child, the child should be given highly protective and promoting environment with utmost care and love. The children should neither be denied of nutritional diet nor should they be ill-treated by their parents. Nutritional deficiency, caused by the parents should be viewed on a par with denial of their fundamental rights. 

Dr.Rex Shanmugham, who takes care of the grown-up children, opines that the rural women should be properly educated and made aware of their responsibility of taking care of their children in respect of their health as well their own health. The new-born baby should weigh 2.5 kg to 3 kg. minimum without any complication. In rural side, the parents seem to neglect this aspect due to the undue pressure given by their uneducated elders at home. In Tamil Nadu also, the rural population should be given proper education and other opportunities in society so that they will be able to give better care to their children like Kerala. Anganwadi workers should be given suitable awareness programmes and training so that they will be able to enlighten the rural people on the need to bestow more care on their children. There is a general complaint that the anganwadi workers are not adequately paid and hence the lacuna. The Government should take necessary efforts to encourage them with rise in their salary and status so that the rural side will be taken care of in a better manner.

K.Manivasan, Secretary of Social Welfare & Nutritional Planning Department explains how anganvadi is instrumental in overcoming the nutritional deficiency problem. He says that Tamil Nadu State stands on top position when compared to other States. Varieties of remedial measures are still taken to reduce the overall nutritional deficiency issue. Every year, the awareness campaign programme is being held from 1st September to 7th September. In particular, the current month of September is fully earmarked for this campaign. Moreover, they have also revised the target of reducing the children affected by anaemia by 3% and the target of reducing the children affected by lack of proper weight with nutritional deficiency by 2% in the next 3 years.

He further says that all the children admitted to the anganwadi are tagged with aadhar cards along with registration of their weight and height. The anganvadi workers are provided with smart phones to enable them to monitor this exercise. Besides this, the children are given egg thrice a week and nutritional porridge and food daily. If all the children avail of these facilities, it will be highly beneficial. Earlier, the children who were housed in anganvadi were there till the age of 5 years.

It is now observed that only 40% of the total number of children make use of the anganvadi and that too, up to the age of 2 or 3 years only. Thereafter they leave for private schools to join the stream of Pre-KG or LKG as the case may be. In Tamil Nadu, once a woman conceives she can register her name with the primary health centre where she will be able to get the preliminary tests like blood, administration of vaccines, sugar test etc. free of cost.  Manivasan opines that these amenities should be well availed of by the pregnant women.

The nutritional expert Ms.Karpagam explains what kind of food is to be given to the children affected by nutritional deficiency. She clearly says that the food that is given at the childhood stage is most important for the balanced of growth of mind and body of the children. It will also create a strong resistance and immunity level in the body. However, nowadays, even the parents lack this practical knowledge as to what kind of food that can be given to the children.

She says that the child should be given breast milk compulsorily for the first six months. Thereafter, mother’s milk alone would not be enough. Along with that certain solid and liquid food, fruits, vegetables, spinach, dhal varieties etc. should also be included. While it should not be simply thrust, it must be cooked and given to the children the way they like it. For instance, if the children refuse to eat fruits, it must be given to them as salad or juice. Indigenously-prepared nutritional flour is available in the anganwadi. The facilities that are available in the anganwadi must be fully tapped and utilised by the parents for their children. Anganwadi must be expanded and installed in urban areas also to have wider coverage.

The parents should monitor and ensure that the home foods that are sent to pre-school and play school along with their children, are fully eaten by their wards without fail. They should refrain from the practice of sending food in sealed packets, noodles and other artificially-made eatables.

Ms.Karpagam finally concludes that the above comprehensive measures should be ably administered so that the children in both rural and urban areas will be devoid of this crucial nutritional deficiency problem.

(This article written in Tamil  by G Lakshmanan and P Madhalai Aron  has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)

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