Health challenges of children under 3 years of age in India: reflections on NFHS results

Pradeep Kumar Mishra, CARE-India
Manjushree Panda, Madras Institute of Development Studies

This paper intends to look at the strategies needed to meet the comprehensive health requirements of children under three years, with special emphasis on nutrition. Review made of two national level programs; ICDS & NRHM. Moreover it analyses the NFHS-II & III findings. The scenario of child health shows gloomy evidence in India. Though improved, 40% of children are still underweight. Anemia among children of 6-35 months is increasing and at 79%. Other indicators that are directly linked to poor nutrition status of children; 75 percent of infants are not breastfed within one hour, and 54 percent are not exclusively breastfed. Only 44 percent children have received full immunization. As a result Infant deaths is at 57 per 1000 live birth. It is apparent that child nutrition is largely depended on household food security and dietary intake, lack of these causes anemia among children. In 35 years of ICDS program the poor nutrition status of children remains unchanged. Originally ICDS was supposed to act on multidimensional aspects of Malnutrition, yet to be focused. More emphasis on accountability of supplementary feeding and pre-school attendance of children 4-6 years old has downsized the scope of counseling and concurrent home contacts during crucial period of undernourished children. Though NRHM has focussed on nutrition but still lag behind in the convergence aspects with ICDS program. It is evident that the policy level issues are still a challenge to boost the child health status in India. 1 per cent of the total union budget is spent on children. The disappointments of parallel programs of child health and nutrition are substantiated with NFHS-IIIresult. A sharp focus on infant nutrition, monitoring of early initiation of Breastfeeding, and Appropriate Complimentary Feeding and timely immunization would rapidly bring down infant mortality and Malnutrition, as targeted in MDG.

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Presented in Poster Session 2