Trends in malnutrition among under-five children of North-East India

Koushik Biswas

Keywords: Malnutrition, under-five children, North-East India, anaemia, NFHS-5

Introduction:
Malnutrition among children is a major public health concern in India. Multiple national health programmes and nutrition supplementation programmes are being operated by the Government to overcome this. The implementation of these programmes is a challenge in remote hilly areas of the country such as the North-Eastern states, sparsely populated by indigenous tribal populations. This study aims to analyse the changes in different types of malnutrition among under-five children over a four-year period in the North-Eastern states of India.

Method:
The state-level data on malnutrition types and indices of under-five children were extracted from the fact sheets of the eight North-Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura), published by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), India. This study is based upon two-time frames of the NFHS series viz. NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-2016 & NFHS-5 conducted in 2019-2020. The change in malnutrition indices was estimated by estimating the difference in prevalence between the two-time frames and narrative analysis was carried out.

Results:
Results revealed that the prevalence of underweight increased in four states while that of overweight increased in all eight states among under-5 children. The prevalence of stunting increased in four states while that of wasting increased in five states. Anemia in children (6 -59 months) has increased in seven out of eight states.

Conclusions:
Stunting affects one in four children in North-East India. In four states where the prevalence of anemia has increased by over 15%, awareness is needed to stop open defecation practices. The North-Eastern state Tripura requires special attention where all indices have reflected the regressive trend.

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