Notes on the Importance of Child Nutrition and Health

Notes on the Importance of Child Nutrition and Health

By Altaf Hussain Haji

Children’s day is celebrated all over the world to cherish and adore the innocence of children, to make them feel special for their role in the world and show them the positives of being a child. It is celebrated on various dates all over the world. But, the question is, do we only pay attention to the style of this day or its substance? What could actually constitute our real commitment to children? This essay is in the nature of understanding and putting this commitment into perspective and rooting for it. I will dwell and focus on the nutritional needs of children- an essential component of their well being and life chances- in this essay.

Nutrition, it may be stated, is the corner stone of socio economic development. Growth faltering and malnutrition are highly prevalent in most South Asian countries. Among the serious consequences of malnutrition are increased risks of morbidity and mortality in children as well as deficits in physical stature and lowered cognitive capabilities. Childhood malnutrition in poor households has been well documented in India, with the highest rates observed in those aged 12-23 months. Country wide National Family Health Survey IV (NFHS IV) data show mean underweight prevalence of children under the age of 5 years is 35.7 percent and total children age 6-23 months receiving an adequate diet is 9.6 percent.

Malnutrition and infections are the most common causes of morbidity and deaths in infants. One leads to the other and both are intimately associated with poverty and poor education. It is possible to improve infant nutrition by two simple, affordable strategies—promotion of exclusive breastfeeding till the child completes six months of age and after that age, introduction of appropriate complementary feeds in addition to, and not as a replacement of breastfeeding. As per the figures of National Family Health Survey IV (NFHS IV) in Jammu and Kashmir, underweight children under 5 years of age are 16.6percent and total children in the age group of 6 to 23 months receiving adequate diet is 23.5percent.

Children represent the future, and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies. Newborns are particularly vulnerable and children are vulnerable to malnutrition and infectious diseases, many of which can be effectively prevented or treated. As per the document of the World Health Organization “Ending Preventable Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality”, the situation of child health in India in 2016 is as under .
1. The mortality rate under 5 years is 48 per thousand live births;
2. The infant mortality rate is 38 per thousand live births;
3. The proportion of 01 year old children immunization against measles is 74 percent ;
4. The still birth rate is 23 per thousand total births.
The child health in Jammu and Kashmir as per National Health Family Survey IV conducted by the ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2015-16 , the condition of the above parameters is under
1. The mortality rate under 5 years is 38 per thousand live births;
2. The infant mortality rate is 32 per thousand live births;
3. The proportion of 01 year old children immunization against measles is 86.2 percent;
4. The still birth rate is around 20 per thousand total births.
No doubt , the child immunizations vitamin A supplements in Jammu and Kashmir of the children in the age group of 12 to 23 months have increased from 66.7 percent to 75.1 percent showing an improvement of 8..4percent as per the NFHS IV report while it increases at the pan India level of the rate 22.5 percent. In Jammu and Kashmir , the treatment of childhood diseases has reduced from 10.1 percent to 7.5 percent while as in India , it has increased from 9.0 percent to 9.2 percent. Addressing neonatal mortality requires focusing on several factors from pre-pregnancy to postnatal care at various levels of service provision – from community care and outreach services, to first level and referral level health facilities linked through a functional referral system.

Malnutrition among infants is not only a cause of ill health or lack of access to infant milk substitutes, but it is the result of inappropriate breast feeding practices and lack of basic education about breastfeeding. The need of the hour is development of training programmes at all levels to disseminate scientifically proven facts regarding advantages and essentiality of breastfeeding with particular emphasis. on exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months, Introduction of such supplements as fresh cow’s milk and a judicious combination of food items of the habitual family diets with continuing breastfeeding as long as possible. Regulating the use of commercial infant food and promotion of better hygiene and cleanliness in the handling and feeding of foods of infant. Thus , the utilization of the available resources with sufficient awareness and discretions is the need to be addressed.
In order to improve health of children and reduce school dropout rates and minimise the discontinuation of education permanently, the most powerful tool is to remain determined for the cause. A plethora of policies and schemes exist for the amelioration and improvement of nutrition and education of children but what is actually needed is to implement the existing policies and schemes meant for the purpose- vigorously and assiduously.

These policies and schemes include Balika Samriddhi Yojana (BSY), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), Inclusive Education for Disable at Secondary Stage ( IEDSS ), An Integrated Programme for Street Children , Incentives to Girls at Secondary Stage, National Merit cum Means Scholarship, Financial Assistance for Appointment of language Teachers, Adolescence Education Programme, Girls Hostel, Model School, ICT at School, Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers , Vocationalisation of Secondary Education, Model School Under Public- Private Partnership(PPP) etc are meant for upliftment / promotion of Secondary education. It is about time that a whole of system and society effort be devised and implemented to give and accord our children improved and better life chances.

The author is Director, NSSO (FOD). He can be reached at: