By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 21: Andhra Pradesh, which is prone to frequent dry spells, has the highest percentage of chronic energy deficiency among States in the country both in men and women.
A survey conducted by the city-based National Institute of Nutrition in nine drought-prone States shows that Andhra Pradesh also tops the list with the dubious distinction of 29 per cent of families in drought-hit areas selling away assets to purchase food items.
The survey was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the NIN's inhouse magazine, Nutrition News.
According to the survey, the overall prevalence of chronic energy deficiency among adult males ranged from a low 26 per cent in Tamil Nadu to a high 50 per cent in Andhra Pradesh. In case of females, it varied from a low 30 per cent in Gujarat to 56 per cent in Andhra Pradesh. The levels of CED among both men and women were relatively higher by about five to 10 per cent than the figures reported in similar surveys conducted earlier in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa.
The report pointed out that households surveyed adopted a variety of strategies to tackle the food scarcity during drought. A majority of the households in all the States except Maharashtra, availed of assistance from government or NGOs. Some of the strategies adopted were reduction in the frequency/quantity of foods consumed, consumption of low cost foods and use of food stocks/savings.
In Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa 20 per cent of the households resorted to migration. About 30 per cent of the households in Andhra Pradesh and 16 per cent in Tamil Nadu sold away household assets to buy foodstuffs during drought. This is as against none in Maharashtra, one per cent in Chattisgarh, two per cent in Gujarat, nine per cent in Orissa and three per cent in Rajasthan.
However, no starvation deaths were reported in any of the villages surveyed in the States.
The problem of severe underweight ranged from a low of 11 per cent in Tamil Nadu to a high of 25 per cent in Madhya Pradesh and in case of severe stunting (a reflection of long duration undernutrition) it was as low as 11 per cent in Tamil Nadu to as high as 39 per cent in Madhya Pradesh.
The prevalence of Kwashiokor, a severe form of protein energy malnutrition, was absent among pre-school children. However marasmus, another form of severe protein energy malnutrition, though of lower magnitude was observed in Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Bitot spots, an objective sign of vitamin A deficiency, was more than the WHO suggested cut-off level of 0.5 per cent in all the states except Chattisgarh indicating public health significance of the problem. The rate varied from 2.5 to three in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka and one to two per cent in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.
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