Prevalence of undernutrition among children in the Garhwal Himalayas

Type Working Paper - Food & Nutrition Bulletin
Title Prevalence of undernutrition among children in the Garhwal Himalayas
Volume 30
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 77-81
Background. Nutritional status is the best indicator of the global well-being of children. In India every third child is underweight, whereas in the Garhwal Himalayas only one-fifth of the children are nutritionally normal. Information regarding the causes of such low nutritional status in children of Garhwal is lacking.

Objective. The present study was designed to identify factors that may influence the nutritional status of the children of the Garhwal Himalayas. Stunting, signifying long-term irreversible chronic undernutrition, was studied, along with wasting, which signifies acute undernutrition among children.

Methods. Forty families from one town and one village in each of the three major agroclimatic situations (high, middle, and low hills) were selected at random (total 240 families). The nutritional status of 353 children (0 to 12 years of age) was assessed by nutritional anthropometry and compared with tables of weight-for-age and height-for-age z-scores (WAZ and HAZ) identifying wasting and stunting, respectively, and compared with the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Reference charts 2007. Chi-square test was applied to analyze the effects of age, sex, altitude, and area on the nutritional status of children.

Results. Of the 353 children studied, 38.2% belonged to the school-aged group, with 7% more girls than boys. Only 11.3% of the children had normal HAZ while 10.3% had normal WAZ. The largest percentages of children (31.8% HAZ and 29.1% WAZ) were clustered in the SD1 group, that is the severely stunted or wasted group. In every age group except the 9- to 12-year group, most of the children were found in the WAZ SD1 category. Gender appeared to influence the SD1 category significantly. There were 17.0% severely stunted girls (SD1), as compared to 14.8% boys; while the percentages of WAZ girls was 16.1% and boys was 13%. The situation in the urban areas was slightly better: 6.4% of the sample had normal HAZ and 7.1% had normal WAZ, compared with 4.4% and 4.6% of the rural children. In all three agroclimatic situations, the largest percentage of children fell in the HAZ SD1 (stunted) category (15.3% in the high hills, 7.3% in the middle hills, and 9.5% in the low hills). There is a significant effect of area (rural vs. urban) on stunting and wasting among children. The child's sex affects stunting only. The other two variables, altitude and age, do not show a significant relationship with stunting or wasting.

Conclusions. The rate of malnutrition among children in the Garhwal is very high. The majority are severely stunted and wasted, indicating a high prevalence of both chronic and acute malnutrition. Only the area of residence (rural or urban) had an influence on a child's nutritional status.

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