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In a response to an RTI application, the Ministry of Women and Child Development revealed that there are more than nine lakh 'severely acute malnourished' children in India, with most of them in Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar.
According to the data, an estimated 9,27,606 severely malnourished (SAM) children between the age group of six months and six years were identified until November 2020, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for 3.98 lakh (3,98,359) children and Bihar (2,79,427), reported India Today.
Severe acute malnutrition would be indicated by very low weight for height, by visible severe wasting, stunted growth, or by the presence of nutritional oedema (fluid retention that causes swelling in the body), according to the World Health Organisation. Children suffering from SAM are nine times more likely to die in case of diseases due to their weakened immune system.
Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Manipur, and Madhya Pradesh reported no severely malnourished children. Notably, except for the first, the Anganwadi workers in the other three states did not report any information in this regard.
The process of identification was undertaken by more than 10 lakh Anganwadi centres in the country. The ministry had directed the states and Union Territories to collect the data so that such children could be referred to the hospitals for appropriate treatment at the earliest.
According to the response, Maharashtra reported 70,665 SAM children followed by Gujarat (45,749), Chhattisgarh (37,249), Odisha (15,595), Tamil Nadu (12,489), Jharkhand (12,059), Andhra Pradesh (11,201), Telangana (9,045), Assam (7,218), Karnataka (6,899), Kerala (6,188) and Rajasthan (5,732).
'There is a rise in unemployment, there is a rise in an economic crisis which is bound to have repercussions on hunger and when there is hunger there will be malnutrition. The government has a clear-cut protocol and they need to ramp that up,' said Enakshi Ganguly, Co-founder of the HAQ Center for Child Rights, reported India Today.
Due to the second wave of the pandemic and the lockdowns imposed to contain the transmission, the vulnerable groups in society have been struggling for survival. With substantial job losses and a rise in unemployment, people are grappling to provide for one square meal a day. The lockdown has also disrupted government initiatives, leaving the disadvantaged in a lurch.
"Malnutrition will be a huge comorbidity if what they are saying that children will be affected more in the next wave holds true, then malnutrition will be a huge comorbidity and how are they going to address that?' questioned Dola Mohapatra, Executive Director, Rise Against Hunger India, an international hunger relief organisation.
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