Over 9.2 lakh children in India are ‘severely acute malnourished', with the most in Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar, according to government data, underscoring concerns the Covid pandemic could exacerbate the health and nutrition crisis among the poorest of the poor.
An estimated 9,27,606 ‘severely acute malnourished’ children from six months to six years were identified across the country till November last year, the Women and Child Development Ministry said in response to an RTI query from PTI.
Of them, Uttar Pradesh counted for 3,98,359 and Bihar 2,79,427, according to the figures shared by the ministry. Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Manipur and MP reported no severely malnourished children.
Except for Ladakh, none of the anganwadi centres in the other four, including MP, one of India’s largest states, reported any data on the matter, as per the RTI reply.
The World Health Organisation defines 'severe acute malnutrition' (SAM) by very low weight-for-height or a mid-upper arm circumference less than 115 mm, or by the presence of nutritional oedema. Kids suffering from SAM have very low weight for their height, and are nine times more likely to die in case of diseases due to their weakened immune system.
The Women and Child Development Ministry had last year asked the states and UTs to identify SAM children for their early referral to hospitals. The figure of 9,27,606 came following that exercise.