Malnutrition dogs prosperous Punjab: report

November 23rd, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Nov 23 (IANS) One in every five adults in the age group of 15 to 49 years suffers from malnutrition in Punjab, often referred to as the granary of the country, says a government survey.The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report (2005-06) of Punjab, which was released here Friday, reveals a sorry picture of the state of health of men, women and children in the state.

“In Punjab, over 37 percent of children under the age of five are undernourished for some time. One in every five adults age 15-49 in Punjab suffers from malnutrition,” Kamala Gupta from the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, told IANS.

IIPS Mumbai is the nodal agency that compiled this report for the central health ministry and conducted the surveys in Punjab.

“Obesity has also emerged as a major health problem among adults here; 30 percent of women and 22 percent of men in the state are overweight. Here only 51 percent of women and 57 percent of men are possessing appropriate weight according to their height,” said Gupta.

According to the report, anaemia is also a problem among children and adults and, for the last 10 years, the number of cases of anaemia among children aged 6-35 months has remained unchanged.

Gupta said: “There are 66 percent of children aged 6-59 months who are anaemic that includes seven percent who suffer from severe anaemia. Among adults, 38 percent normal women and 45 percent of women who are breastfeeding are anaemic in Punjab.”

The survey was done by interviewing 3,681 women aged 15-49 years and 1,329 men aged 15-54 years in Punjab. The survey is based on a sample of 2,968 households that is representative of the urban and rural population of the state.

In one of its findings, the NFHS-III report deduced that despite various efforts of the government to educate the people about HIV/AIDS, the awareness level among masses is very low.

The report says 46 percent of the women and 19 percent of the men in Punjab do not know that HIV/AIDS spread can be prevented by the use of condoms.

The report also reveals that education plays an integral role in empowering the women of Punjab.

“In Punjab 25 percent of married women spoke of spousal violence, either physical or sexual in nature. However, the prevalence of spousal violence declines sharply with women’s education from 34 percent among women with no education to 13 percent among women with 10 or more years of education,” said Gupta.

Only 30 percent of women who have experienced violence have sought help to end it, she said.

Vaccination and immunization is also of concern in Punjab. Negating the various assertions of the government, the report said that there are seven percent children aged 12-23 months in Punjab who have received no vaccination at all.

“There is also a large gender differential in vaccination coverage in the state. Only 54 percent of the girls aged 12-23 months, compared with 65 percent boys in the same age group are fully vaccinated.

“Girls are also less likely than boys to have received each one of the suggested vaccinations,” said S.K. Singh, a senior IIPS official.

He said: “Despite the war-scale pulse polio campaigns of the state government, which aimed to eradicate the disease in the country, one-fourth of children in Punjab still have not received three doses of polio vaccine.”

Diarrhoea was a major health problem for children. While the knowledge about Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhoea is known to mothers, only 34 percent of the children below five who had diarrhoea received a solution made from an ORS packet.

“Punjab also lacks delivery care as only about half (51 percent) of births take place in a health facility. Only about one-third of the home deliveries are assisted by trained health personnel,” said Singh.

The report however strengthens the notion that smaller families have gradually become the norm in Punjab.

Singh said: “Women in Punjab exhibit low fertility. At current fertility levels, a woman in Punjab will have an average of two children in her lifetime. That is one child less than the national average.”

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