Immunization and nutritional status among Indian children

7.4 million children in India are unimmunized making the country home for the highest number of unimmunized children

The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. Not only that, 7.4 million children in India are unimmunized making the country home for the highest number of unimmunized children. With 26 million births per year under 5 mortality Rate in India is 37 per 1,000 live births which is mainly due to Prematurity & low birth weight (29.8%), Pneumonia (17.1%), Diarrheal diseases (8.6%), Non-communicable diseases (8.3%), and other causes such as Birth asphyxia & birth trauma, Injuries, Congenital anomalies, Acute bacterial sepsis and severe infections etc. ( 36.1%).

Undernutrition is caused mainly in the first two years of life by inadequacies in food and healthcare in children. Moreover, at the household and community level, women’s status, household food security, hygiene and socio-economic standards further contribute to children’s nutrition status. If we look at statistics on nutrition in India, Bihar percentage stunted (have short height for age) children are 48% , Uttar Pradesh 46%, followed by Jharkhand 45%, Meghalaya 44% and Madhya Pradesh 42%. The top five states for wasting (have low weight for their age) are Jharkhand 29%, Gujarat 26%, Karnataka 26%, Madhya Pradesh 26% and Maharashtra 26%. Whereas, the percentage of underweight children are concerned, Jharkhand 48% , Bihar 44%, Madhya Pradesh 43%, Uttar Pradesh 40% and Gujarat 40%.

Irrespective of the government trying to implement many initiatives to improve the status of nutrition and immunization there are many barriers to overcome.  

For an example when it comes to Immunization people are not aware of the vaccines or some have very little awareness they will not bother to complete the vaccination; Some parents are illiterate so they have very little knowledge about vaccines; there are many religious and cultural taboos and also lots of miss information circulated among people with increasing number of people using social media ; sometimes there’s no uniform immunization coverage and poor vaccine logistics in some areas results in vaccines not reaching to the needy; poor implementation of some vaccination programs as well as poor monitoring which eventually leads to over reporting and high number of dropouts. 

Government is putting full efforts to improve immunization with Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) and helps to prevent children from Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Measles, Rubella, Pneumonia and Meningitis caused by Haemophilus Influenza B and Rotavirus. Furthermore, in order to increase immunization upto 90%, government is also conducting Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 2.0.

To address nutrition related challenges, the government has initiated POSHAN (Prime Minister Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment), which will prevent and reduce stunting, underweight and low birth weight by 2% per annum and the reduction of anaemia by 3% per annum. With the help of Anganwadi Services scheme government is also trying to improve the following areas i.e. Supplementary Nutrition, Pre School Non-formal Education, Nutrition and Health Education, Immunization, Health check-ups and referral services. Moreover, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY) has also introduced targeting 0-6 years of children in order to improve the nutritional and health status.

To combat undernutrition and improve the immunization coverage in young children, apart from government efforts we as citizens have equal responsibility and opportunity starting from educating people and finding low-cost solutions to undernutrition in the high priority states of India which will have a global impact.

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