Published on January 6, 2020

AHMEDABAD: With the clamour on child deaths across the state in tertiary healthcare facilities in December, the experts have pointed at malnutrition as a major cause for the phenomenon.

The Food and Nutrition Security Analysis for 2019 had put Gujarat along with Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for the highest stunting and underweight categories. The state government had also mentioned in the assembly in June 2019 that 1.42 lakh children in Gujarat were underweight and out of the total, 24,101 were severely underweight.

On Sunday, the state deputy chief minister and health minister Nitin Patel listed lack of awareness about issues related to pregnancy health and nutrition as one of the reasons for the deaths of infants in Ahmedabad and Rajkot hospitals.

The Lancet report titled ‘The burden of child and maternal malnutrition and trends in its indicators in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017’ published in December 2019 put Gujarat at the top in child wasting (low height to weight ratio) with 19.3% of total children and sixth in child stunting with prevalence of 39.6%. The report mentioned that 20.7% of the total children had reported low birth weight.

A senior health department official on condition of anonymity told TOI that a significant number of children born in the state have 2.5kg or less birth weight. “The premature babies and those having mothers struggling with anaemia are obviously more prone to after-birth complications. More often than not, the tertiary care centres receive children having multiple complications and thus death rate is high,” said the official.

Dr Kranti Vora, additional professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), said that need of the hour is to strengthen community-level and facility-level care for reduction in infant mortality.

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