A new survey called the Jacchca-Bacha Survey (JABS), conducted in June in six states (Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh) to map the state of pregnant and nursing women has found that a high proportion of women do not eat enough during pregnancy.

The relation between Mothers Health and Child Nutrition

  • The poor health of pregnant and nursing women, as well as inadequate healthcare infrastructure, lie at the heart of India’s child nutrition crisis.
  • The latest Global Hunger Index released in October pegged India at a lowly 102 out of a total of 117 countries.
  • One of the key findings of GHI was that ‘child wasting’ (that is, children having low weight for their height) which essentially shows the extent of acute malnutrition had increased over the past decade.
  • At almost 21%, India’s child wasting level is the highest in the world.
  • Combined with almost 38% of child stunting (that is, children who have low height for their age), India has the highest number of undernourished children in the world.

Key Findings of the survey

  • Methodology: The survey divided the six states into laggard and leader states.

  • State’s Performance: Uttar Pradesh, which is India’s most populous, performed the worst, while Himachal Pradesh, on average, performed the best.
  • Lack of Adequate rest: Most numbers on pregnant women in UP are  not getting adequate rest either because they had no one to help out at home, or because they had to actually go out and work on the farm in their condition.
  • High out of pocket expenditure: The proportion of women who had to borrow or sell assets just to meet child delivery expenses too, was quite high, especially among the laggard states.
  • Low access to health care: On access to basic healthcare facilities, the survey found that 36% women in UP did not get a single check-up at a primary health centre across different schemes.

According to UNICEF reports, a third of women of reproductive age in India are undernourished, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2. It is well known that an undernourished mother inevitably gives birth to an undernourished baby, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of under nutrition.

What can be done?

  • Improving the quantity and nutrient level of food consumed in the household by Ensuring Access to
  • Household food ration through public distribution system (PDS), 
  • Supplementary foods under the integrated child development services scheme,
  • Access to knowledge to improve the local diet, production and household behaviours through nutrition and health education.
  • Preventing micronutrient deficiencies and anaemia by providing
  • Iron Folic Acid Supplementation deworming
  • Universal access to iodized salt
  • Access to knowledge and support to stop the use of tobacco products during pregnancy
  • Increasing women’s access to basic nutrition and health services by providing
  • Early registration of pregnancy 
  • Quality of antenatal natal checkup, with emphasis on pregnancy weight gain monitoring & Screening.
  • Improving access to water and sanitation education and facilities by providing Sanitation and hygiene education, including menstrual hygiene.
  • Empowering women to prevent pregnancies too early, too often and too close together by
  • Ensuring marriage at/after legal age of 18 through awareness and ensuring a girl completes secondary education
  • Methods to prevent maternal depletion through family planning, reproductive health information, cash transfers, and services.
  • Community support system for women to support decision making, confidence building, skill development and economic empowerment.