Friday, July 15, 2005

People in Andhra Pradesh are nutritionally "backward"

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 15: People in Andhra Pradesh are "starved" nutritionally when compared with those living in many States in the country.
According to a research study carried out by Andhra Pradesh Social Watch (Report 2005), chronic energy deficiency is observed in 37.4 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women living in villages. The scenario, however, is slightly better in towns and cities.
The average protein intake of both rural and urban Andhraites is just 62 (gm/cu/day) as against the all-India figure of 71.50. They also lag behind in fat intake. The State's average fat consumption is 50.7 gm/cu/day as compared with the all-India intake of 60.70 gm/cu/day.
Consumption of pulses in the State is 860 grams per head per month as against the all-India average of 960 grams.
The study points out that the per capita consumption of food items in the State is largely below the Indian Council of Medical Research norms. Even in urban areas, out of 10 food items examined during the survey, not a single food item is consumed according to the ICMR norms.
As many as 10.5 per cent of children in the State are severely undernourished and 28.2 per cent are moderately undernourished. The incidence of moderate malnutrition implies that the affected children may not reach their full physical and mental potential while severe malnutrition indicates that they may be functionally impaired.
No wonder then that Andhra Pradesh ranks 13 among 16 top States in the country in terms of food availability situation.
The per capita consumption of milk in the State is 3.96 litres per month as compared with 4.59 litres national average. Fish consumption is just 0.08 kgs per month in the State while the all-India average is 0.22 kgs. Break-up of other food items in the State with national average in brackets is: edible oil 0.60 kgs (0.72 kgs), vegetables 2.93 kgs (3.02 kgs), fruits 0.97 kgs (1.06 kg) and sugar 0.67 kgs (1.00 kg). Only in the case of cereals, the State is slightly ahead with just 42 grams per month. The State's per capita monthly consumption of cereals is 10.94 kgs (10.42 kgs all India).
Even in the case of production too, the State lags behind. Production of cereals in the State is only 363.35 grams per capita while ICMR norms stipulate 420 grams per head per day. The all-India average is 430.33 grams. About 40 grams of pulses are needed per head per day while the actual net production in the State is just 22.68 grams (all-India average is 31.94 grams).
"Consumption of food too provides important information about the food security status. In Andhra pradesh there's deficit in production over consumption of cereals. While net production of cereals is 381.90 grams per day the actual consumption is 442.33 grams," the report points out.
Though the Rural Food Insecurity Atlas (prepared by Dr MS Swaminathan Foundation and World Food Programme) has shown surplus net production of milk, edible oil, sugar and fruits in Andhra Pradesh, the same is not reflected in the per capita consumption in urban areas. In the case of cereals, 87 per cent of the ICMR norm is fulfilled but when it comes to pulses it is only 73 per cent. It is as low as 24 per cent in the case of eggs.
Stating that food consumption pattern across classes of consumers too demonstrates the food insecurity situation, the report points out that per capita monthly consumption for cereals is 10.94 kgs for all classes while it is only 9.67 kgs for the lowest 10 per cent.
This difference is viewed in the consumption of other food items as well. The per capita monthly consumption of pulses for all classes is 0.86 kgs but it is as low as 0.46 kgs for the lowest 10 per cent of the population.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

"Marriage pill" to reduce the high incidence of central nervous system defects in children

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 6: City doctors have come out with what they call "marriage pill" to reduce the high incidence of central nervous system defects in children born in Andhra Pradesh.
The "marriage pill" is nothing but a simple combination of folic acid and vitamins which, if taken by pregnant women, will result in the birth of healthy babies. Andhra Pradesh, particularly Hyderabad has been witnessing high incidence of child births with central nervous system and spine defects.
This is linked to lack of awareness and care during pregnancy.
"The foetus with central nervous system defects have open skull. Such babies die. In foetus with spine defects the back is open with nerves being exposed. The nerves are destroyed leading to poor or lack of bladder and bowel moments. We always thought a healthy mother will give birth to a healthy baby. Which is not true, a healthy mother can still have a foetus with defects," says Dr Evita Fernandez.
The marriage pill will help solve the problem to a large extent, she pointed out. Folic acid when combined with a dose of vitamins particularly B vitamin, prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The marriage pill has to be taken very early in pregnancy.
Research studies suggest that folic acid may also protect women and men from stroke and cancers of colon and breast.