NFHS 2019-21Report: Anaemia among women and children is on the rise

The statistics in NFHS (National Family Health Survey) 2019-21, the fifth in the sequence, reveal that the most significant jump in Anaemia was observed among children aged 6-59 months, 67.1% (NFHS-5) up from 58.6% compared to the previous year (NFHS-4, 2015-16). According to the report, the figure was more significant in rural India (68.3%) than in urban India (64.2%).

Anaemia follows in girls aged 15-19 years, 59.1% (NFHS-5) compared to 54.1% previously (NFHS-4). This group, too, has a more significant proportion in rural regions (58.7%) than in urban India (54.1%). Pregnant women aged 15-49 years were anaemic in 52.2%, up from 50.4% in the previous survey. However, there is a significant gap between urban centres (45.7%) and rural India in this category (54.3%).

The statistics state Anaemia’s prevalence amongst males was much lower than in other age categories, 25% in the 15-49 age group and 31.1% in the 15-16 age group. However, as per NFHS-5, the country also showed a slight increase in two critical indicators of undernourishment amongst children under the age of five, stunting and wasting.
The WHO describes stunting as decreased growth and development in children mainly because of poor nutrition, frequent infection, and insufficient psychosocial stimulation.

As per the NFHS-5 statistics, 35.5% of children under five are stunted (height-for-age), opposed to 38.8% in NFHS-4. According to the most recent data, the percentage of stunted children in rural India is greater (37.3%) than in urban regions (30.1%). The Health Ministry’s fact sheet on November 24, 2021, includes 14 states and Union Territories as part of NFHS-5 phase 2. In December 2020, the phase-1 findings of 22 states and union territories were announced.

Rajasthan (31.8%) had a 7.3% drop in stunting among children in phase-2 statistics, followed by Uttar Pradesh (39.7%) with a 6.6% decline. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand (27%) and Haryana (27.5%) saw a 6.5% growth rate, while Madhya Pradesh (35.7%) had a 6.3% point gain.

According to the World Health Organization, wasting in children suggests sudden and significant weight loss; however it can also linger for a long time – a kid discovered “severely wasted” has an elevated chance of mortality, although treatment is available.
The NFHS-5 showed wasting (weight-for-height) in 19.3% of children under five, compared to 21% in the NFHS-4. Compared to urban India, the per cent of kids in this group is somewhat greater in rural regions (19.5%) than in metropolitan India (18.5%). However, the data also suggest a concerning trend, 7.7% of children under the age of five are significantly wasted (weight-for-height), opposed to 7.5% in NFHS-4.

The NFHS-5 highlights another red flag among children under the age of five, 3.4% are overweight, opposed to 2.1% in the NFHS-4. As per the WHO, overweight indicates malnutrition caused by burning too few calories for the quantity of food ingested and raises the risk of noncommunicable conditions later on in life.

On the same day that this data was disclosed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed Poshan Abhiyaan, his government’s primary program to promote nourishment for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. One of the initiative’s primary goals is to lower the frequency of Anaemia among children aged 6-59 months by 9%.

Modi stated that the project should be executed in “mission mode.” He also emphasized the need for Self-Help Groups and other local agencies to raise awareness regarding children’s nutrition and health. The evaluation was conducted during the 39th edition of PRAGATI, the ICT-based multi-modal framework for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation, including the Central and State governments.