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"Model" Gujarat is second from bottom in % children receiving "adequate" diet in 6-23 months age group: Analyst

% children receiving adequate diet
By Our Representative
A fresh analysis of the data put out by the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 has found that Gujarat, the state considered model by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for others to follow, has one of the lowest percentage of children in the age group 6-23 months “getting adequate diet”.
With just 5.2% children found to be in this category in Gujarat, even “Bimaru” Uttar Pradesh has a higher percentage of children getting adequate diet – 5.3%. The only state which performs worse than Gujarat is the neighbouring Rajasthan, 3.4%, the analysis, carried out by a University of Sussex, has found.
Published in a top data site, the analysis says that just 10% or “only one in 10 Indian children aged 6-23 months gets adequate diet.” It adds, “Consequently, 35.7% of children below five years of age are underweight.” In the earlier NFSH-3 data, released a decade earlier, 9% children across India received “adequate diet.”
The states which perform best in this respect include Puducherry (31%), followed by Tamil Nadu (30.7%), Meghalaya (23.6%), Jammu & Kashmir (23.5%), and Kerala (21.4%).
If after birth, during 0-6 months, breast milk alone is considered sufficient to meet an infant’s requirement for food and water, the period of transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods, referred to as complementary feeding, covers a child from 6-23 months.
Characterized by health experts as “vulnerable period”, the analyst, Devanik Saha, says, “It is the time when malnutrition starts in many infants, contributing to the high prevalence of malnutrition in children under two years of age.”
% children receiving adequate diet
“Optimal breastfeeding in the first year and complementary feeding practices together can prevent almost one-fifth of deaths in children under five years of age, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund”, Saha adds.
“Optimal complementary feeding is the most effective intervention that can significantly reduce stunting during the first two years of life. Stunted children are more susceptible to fall sick, underperform in schools, more likely to become overweight and often earn less than non-stunted co-workers”, Saha continues.
An “adequate diet” is defined as introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at six months together with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.
The guidelines for adequate diet, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), include continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until two years of age or beyond; start feeding at six months with small amounts of food and increase gradually as the child gets older; increase the number of times that the child is fed: 2–3 meals per day for infants 6-8 months of age and 3-4 meals per day for infants 9-23 months of age, with 1-2 additional snacks as required; use fortified complementary foods or vitamin-mineral supplements as needed; and so on.
“India has more malnourished children than sub-Saharan Africa and nearly one of every five malnourished children in the world is from India”, says Saha, adding, “Among the larger states, only Tamil Nadu met its millennium development goal (MDG) target with a reduction of 67% in infant mortality rate to 19 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.”

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