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 Child Health & Nutrition

CHILD Protection & Child Rights » Vulnerable Children » Children's Issues » Child Health & Nutrition


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) globally, 30% of children under five are estimated to be stunted and 18% have low weight-for-height, and 43 million children are overweight. Optimal breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million children under five every year. Nearly nine million children die every year from preventable diseases and infections: the largest killer being Diarrhoeal disease. There are over 2 billion cases of diarrhoeal disease every year and is the leading cause of malnutrition amongst children under five.

In India 84% of all health care expenditure is out of pocket. This places a great number of families at risk of falling into poverty due to high health expenses. Millions of children are at risk of becoming malnourished. Every third child in India is malnourished. Infant and child mortality rates still remain very high about the MDG. They are lowest among marginalised groups such as scheduled castes and tribes, and females. Discrimination in food based schemes and in society in general leads to starvation deaths among women and children of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Muslim children have the highest rate of stunting and second highest rate of being underweight. There are almost no services or programmes for children with mental health issues. Children with disabilities, HIV/AIDS and mental disorders are stigmatized and hence have little access to health facilities.

India has one of the poorest health records in the world with the highest TB prevalence, every three out of four children have anaemia, and polio eradication is actually backsliding. With varying social sector budgets, health indicators differ greatly across the country. Kerala is best off with only 21% stunted children. Uttar Pradesh has the worst record with 46% of the children being underdeveloped. Girls are at a higher risk of not being able to access health care. The mental health budget remains at 1% of the total health budget.  Child Health & Nutrition

According to UNICEF India over two million children die every year from preventable diseases. IMR in India is 63 deaths for every 1000 live births. Of these 47% of the deaths occur within the first week after birth. Measles is the largest cause of death among children which can be prevented by a vaccine. Tetanus in newborns remains a major problem Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Assam.

Breastfeeding is the first crucial step to ensuring good health in infants. According to NFHS-3 data 24.5% of new mothers initiated breastfeeding in the hour after birth, 46.4% breastfed exclusively the first six months and 56.7% nursed beyond six months with the introduction of complementary food. This results in more than 50% the child population below five being underweight. 44.9% of the children under three are stunted and 22.9% of children under three are wasted. Less than 50% of children receive full immunization during infancy. This number has been dropping significantly over the years indicating a problem with the universal immunization programme.  Child Health & Nutrition

According to NFHS-3 60% of children have been brought to a health care facility with diarrhoea, 69% have Acute respiratory infection and 71% have presented a high fever. Only 39% of children under five having diarrhoea during the time of the survey received some kind of oral rehydration therapy. More than one fourth of children with diarrhoea received no treatment at all. Children with diarrhoea need to consume plenty of water and adequate food. But 40% of children received less water and 45% received less food than usual. Child abuse, especially sexual abuse puts children at high health risks. Abuse is related to high mental health disorders as well as sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Child health initiatives come under the Reproductive and Child Health Programmes and ICDS.