SHILLONG, Aug 10 - Meghalaya has the highest number of stunted children under the age of five in the North East, according to India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 (IHR).The report was presented during the State Level Consultation on “Accelerating progress towards good nutrition for all in Meghalaya” here on Tuesday.
The meeting was organised by Social Welfare department, State Resource Centre for Women, Meghalaya, in collaboration with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and India Institute of Public Health, Shillong.
According to the report, Meghalaya has 43.8 per cent of stunted children under the age of five in the North East followed by Assam with 40.6 per cent. These rates are above the national average of 38.7 per cent.
Stunted children have their brains and immune systems compromised and do not function to their potential. The IHR cites open defecation and inadequate hand washing as reasons for poor health among children, leading to malnourishment.
Meghalaya Additional Chief Secretary Y Tsering said holistic, State-level actions are needed to address nutrition in Meghalaya. “There is a need to look at food habits in rural areas and create awareness on the importance of nutritious food, healthy lifestyle, education for women and girls and water, sanitation and hygiene practices, he said.
Tsering further emphasised on the importance of education “in shaping the perceptions of children, therefore, educators play a key role in spreading health literacy.”
Mission Director, State Resource Centre for Women, Ivyreen Warjri highlighted the importance of women’s empowerment for achieving better nutrition and health outcomes in Meghalaya.
She also appealed to stop open defecation which is one of the prime reasons for contagious diseases, adding, the State was optimistic that the Nutritional Index of Meghalaya would improve in the coming months.
Presenting data on Meghalaya’s nutrition status, Neha Raykar, Lead Economist, PHFI said there are considerable disparities and inequities in nutritional outcomes and their drivers across districts of Meghalaya that State programmes need to address.