Over 4.37 lakh kids suffer from anaemia, malnutrition

Over 4.37 lakh schoolchildren in Gujarat are suffering from anaemia and malnutrition, reveals a latest report on a health project conducted across schools in the state where several "nutrition intervention" programmes are being run to boost nutrition levels among children.

The unpublished figures sourced by The Indian Express from School Health Programme (SHP) that covered 1.5 crore students in 99,036 anganwadi centres, primary, secondary and higher secondary schools during the year 2012-13 show high prevalence of both anemia and malnutrition among schoolchildren in the age group of 0-18 years.

These figures come at a time when the state government is running at least seven different programmes to combat malnutrition among children and mothers: Anaemia Control Programme among women and children, Adolescent Girls Anaemia Control Programme, Mission Balam Sukham, Mamta Abhiyan, Micro-nutrients programme, National Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Programme, and Vitamin A Supplementation Bi-annual Round for children.

That's not all. The state also has created a special Gujarat State Nutrition Mission to tackle malnutrition.

The SHP carried out from November 2012 till January 2013 covers a total of 15 diseases. It has been found that over 2.41 lakh students were categorised in the bracket of "other diseases". In this segment or other diseases, (in which health experts did not rule out the possibility of malnutrition as one of the reasons), there were 1,729 cases of neurological disorders and 2,416 cases of stress among students. All these as per health experts, are caused by malnutrition.

Talking about the high prevalence of anaemia, Dr Kinnari Mehta from the health department of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) said, "As one leads to another (anaemia and malnutrition), what we have come across during diagnosis and examination of students is that there are two possible reasons. One is poverty that is also attributed for a larger number of students in rural areas. Other is lack of ignorance among parents." Dr Mehta is also associated with SHP.

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