Malnutrition menace: 19% newborn babies underweight in Odisha in 2019

High under nutrition prevails in State's tribal, western and northern districts. Nabarangpur topped with 31% underweight babies. Odisha govt counts on Ragi power to boost nutrition level

Bhubaneswar: With under nutrition enormity staring at the State’s face, in a belated attempt, the Odisha Government has for the first time decided to supply millets (Ragi) via its PDS at a cheaper rate of just Re 1.

Sample how grave is the enormity of child under nutrition in Odisha. As per the data exclusively accessed, during the period of April – May 2019, the State has seen around 47,000 live births. And of the total live births, nearly 45, 620 infants were weighed. As high as 19 per cent of the total infants weighed were found underweight (weighing below 2.5kg) in the State. Underweight babies are direct outcome of under nutrition.

Moreover, in over a dozen of districts, the underweight infant proportion was over one-fourth of the total live births registered. Nabarangpur topped the dubious chart with a high of over 31 per cent underweight infants. Besides tribal districts, Bargarh, known as rice bowl of Odisha, has recorded a high of around 23 per cent underweight infants of the total live births registered during the period.

In the indicator of malnourished children in the age-group of 0-6 years, Odisha figured among the top – 5 states in the country. An analysis done on the basis of 2011 census child population data, Odisha has a whopping over 13.5 lakh malnourished children in the age-group of 0-6 years.

However, the same analysis has also indicated a dip in the proportion of malnourished children in the State during the last decade by nearly 2.5 per cent. Moreover, a link could clearly be established between the dip in under nutrition and the cheap-rice scheme launched in the State.

UN organisation like Unicef has long been demanding that millets need to be included in the PDS. As per Unicef study, millets could prove a double bonanza for the State. Not only it will ensure a smart dip in under nutrition in the State, but also augment farmers’ income in the tribal districts.

Under nutrition and low per capita income have emerged a vicious cycle in State’s poor tribal districts. For which, in the indicator of the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Odisha fares at the bottom.

Despite the demand since long, the State government had decided to procure millets for PDS last year after Modi-led NDA government had fixed MSP for millets to boost the traditional tribal farming in the country. Taking to the logical conclusion, the State government on Monday has decided to include millets in the PDS delivery akin to cheap rice scheme.