Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Malnutrition menace grips Odisha acutely. Hard numbers show half of the child population in the State are severely  malnourished.

With Nagada's instance still fresh in memory, the malnutrition saga may linger till 2036, the centennial birth year of Odisha.

As per a report on state of nutrition in Odisha by the Coalition for Food & Nutrition Security (CFNS), at least 1 in every 3 youths (29.1%) in Odisha will be stunted even in the State's centennial birth year.

The other grim forecast it made is Odisha is set to miss the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) target date by yards. However, half of the states in the country are better poised to attain the NNM goalposts on the set date of 2022.

According to the CFNS report, a high of 10.7 lakh children under 5-years are diagnosed as stunted, another 10.8 lakh are born underweight and the wasted children count stood at 5.13 lakh. The total malnourished children in Odisha, thus, stood at a massive 26.63 lakh.

So, when as per the 2011 census, the total child population in the State stood at 52.73 lakh, the malnourished children numbers of 26.63 lakh account for over half of the child populace in the State.

The big revelation made by the CFNS study is despite high prevalence of malnutrition in State, the distressing home-truth is,  the share of Odisha's nutrition budget to the total budget has shrunk to 5.9 per cent in 2018-19 (BE) from 6.33 per cent in 2015-16.

As the nutrition budget's pie to total budget has shrunk for two consecutive years, Odisha, in all probability, will miss the mandates of National Nutrition Mission (NNM) by yards.

The projections made by the study shows with a current annual average reduction rate of 3.6 per cent, Odisha will not accomplish the  target of 20.5 per cent stunting among children in 0-5 years by year 2022. Rather, Odisha is projected to have a stunting rate of 25.2 per cent.

The projection shows Odisha will also miss the goalposts in reducing wasting and underweight among children (0-5 years).

In contrast to the NNM mandate of wasting among children at 4.9 per cent and underweight at 20.7 per cent by the year 2022, Odisha is projected to miss the target by yards with the proportion of wasting and underweight rates are projected to remain at 12.4 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

Why Odisha will fail to achieve the targets? Because, the current annual average reduction rates in Odisha for wasting and underweight are 2.8 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively, when the asking rates under NNM are a massive 22.9 per cent and 8.2 per cent, respectively.

Why malnutrition is  a menace? It's so because the tango of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are significantly contributing to the burden of non-communicable diseases in Odisha.

As per Comprehensive national Nutrition Survey (CNNS) 2016-18, overall. 21.3 per cent children in Odisha have low serum ferritin in Odisha, 9.5 per cent have vitamin B12 deficiency and 19.1 per cent Vitamin A deficiency.

The result: Besides an adverse impact on immunity, it was also observed that when 7.8 per cent children in 5-9 years hold the risk of overweight or obese conditions owing to micronutrient deficiencies, only 3.7 per cent are vulnerable nationally.   Similarly, 7.8 per cent children in 10-19 years age-group are prone to obese conditions in Odisha vis-a-vis 4.8 per cent nationally.

In Odisha, 3.7 per cent and 3.9 per cent children hold the risk of high cholesterol vis-a-vis 3.2 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively, nationally.

However, when 27.5 per cent Odisha children in 5-9 years are prone to high triglycerides, national average stood at 34 per cent. In the age-group of 10-19 years, the proportion in Odisha stood at 9.1 per cent vis-a-vis national average of 16.1 per cent.

Similarly, malnutrition & micronutrient deficiencies make Odisha children more vulnerable to diabetes than their counterparts in other states.