A year and five month old Shweta (name changed) from Kothrud, weighs only 5.25 kg,has a large head and delayed physical response. She comes under the criteria of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM); while her mother, with hemoglobin of 7 falls under the criteria of being anemic mother.
Shweta was hospitalized in Sassoon hospital’s Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) last week, to get immediate treatment for dehydration which she is suffering from because of dysentery and vomiting. The task of treating dehydration is more challenging for doctors here, as Shweta is malnourished also.
Last week there were seven patients admitted in the NRC. The doctors at NRC conducted hemoglobin testing of the mothers of these children. Five out of seven mother’s hemoglobin was below 11.
The doctors at Sassoon hospital said that in the cases of malnourished children that are admitted to the centre, the mothers are found to be anemic in more than 70 per cent of the cases that are admitted here.
Dr Aarti Kinikar, in charge of the NRC at Sassoon, said, “Shweta’s mother did not have enough milk to breastfeed her daughter. She herself being anemic mother has made her child fall susceptible to malnutrition. In the NRC, more than in more than 70 per cent of the cases we have seen mother being anemic, which then affects child’s development. Less is the percentage of anemic mother; less would be malnourishment in children.”
Shweta’s father is migrated to city three years back in search of work. He works at a small scale workshop. His annual income is Rs. 10,000. “It becomes difficult to survive with such meager income. Many a times we sleep without having dinner.”
In order to tackle nutritional deficiencies that aggravates malnourished conditions in these children, government run B J Medical College and Sassoon general hospital has set up a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) for children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). It has also chalked out a special diet programme that combines proteins and calorie-rich food for the development of the child during its 14 day stay.
The anemic mother is one of the important cause that doctors see which leads to malnutrition among the children. Doctors at Sassoon point out faulty feeding practices, poverty, illiteracy and lack of vaccination, as other reasons for malnutrition.
Dr Ramesh Bhosale, Head of the Gynecology Department of Sassoon’s BJ Medical College, said, “If anyone asks me what is the biggest health problem that our country is facing, my answer will be just in one word and that word is ‘anemia’. Anemia in women is stopping us from producing classes and what we are producing is just masses. Anemia in women affects development of Intelligent Quotient (IQ) in children, it affects their performance at school and it finally affects country’s productive force output in negative way.”
“In order to tackle malnutrition in children, it is needed to treat anemic women first,” he added.