The first phase of the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS), released by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday (December 12), has reported a rise in underweight and severely wasted under-5 children among 22 states. This was despite marked improvements in sanitation and better access to fuel and drinking water, it said.
The most significant finding from the latest NFHS is on child nutrition. The NFHS 4, which was conducted in 2015-16, had recorded a decline in child malnutrition levels. These gains seem to have been reversed, the NFHS-5 reports show.
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The share of children who were stunted (low height for their age) rose in 13 states, while the share of children who had low weight for their height increased in 12 states.
The NFHS is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in representative sample of households throughout India.
As many as 13 states and UTs of the 22 surveyed registered a surge in the percentage of stunted children under five years of age in comparison to 2015-16. These states are Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Lakshadweep and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
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The data collection was suspended in May this year due to the COVID-19 and the final report with data for all states is expected to be ready in another six months.
The present NFHS is being done on 6.1 lakh sample households. The results of 17 states and five UTs (Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Mizoram, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu) have been released now as Phase-I.
According to the Union health ministry, substantial improvement in maternal and child health indicators over NFHS-4 (2015-16) was recorded in the present survey.
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The fertility rate has further declined and contraceptive use has increased in most Phase I (1991) states. The survey also found considerable improvement in vaccination coverage among children age 12-23 months across all states/UTs.
Women’s empowerment indicators (including women with bank account) also portray considerable progress, the government said.