Most infants in Bengaluru undernourished: National Family Health Survey

Bengaluru: Bengaluru may have a reputation as a progressive city, but it doesn't fare very well when it comes to the health of its children. Going by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), only 13.9 per cent of infants between six and 23- months- old in the city receive an adequate diet. The figure is only slightly better at 8.2 per cent for the state as a whole.

City doctors, however, don't seem very surprised at this state of affairs.  "Lack of knowledge about the various schemes is one of the reasons. Also, a lot of mothers are not even aware of what kind of nutritious food  their children need," says Dr Purnima, a paediatrician in a city hospital, pointing out  that it is important for mothers to breastfeed for upto six months.  

Dr Usha Manjunath, director, Institute of Health Management Research, observes that slum children, and children of poverty-ridden migrant workers and urban poor struggle for the minimum nutrition required.

"Food practices and poverty affect the diet. Most  mothers feed children whatever they cook at home. For instance, many mothers feed them only rice, which only helps them gain carbohydrates," says Dr Usha.

It's a serious problem as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) emphasises that  0 to 6 years is crucial for the brain development of a child and it can be hindered by a lack of adequate nutrition. The organisation  warns that lack of nutrition is particularly harmful during childhood, which is a period of rapid growth. 

But defending the government's role in the matter, a senior official of the Department of Women and Child Welfare says there are many services under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) that provide supplementary nutrition, nutrition and health education for women and also regular health check-ups.

"All these are delivered through anganwadis across the state. Information assistance too is available for mothers to help them give their children the right food ," he adds.

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