The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) expresses deep concern about the removal of anaemia from the survey indicators of NFHS- 6 by the BJP Government.
The previous NFHS -5 survey had revealed that over 57% of women and over 67% of children suffer from anaemia in our country. Prevalence of anaemia to such an extent cannot be dismissed as a mild problem or an isolated occurrence. Medical experts have pointed out that it is a major contributor to maternal and child mortality. It hinders growth and development in children, leading to long term implications for their health and well being. Anaemia also reduces resistance to infections among women and children. The impact on adolescent girls and pregnant women is a matter of grave concern.
In such a context, the Government is taking the questionable decision of excluding this data from its survey. The reasons being cited for this step are on technical grounds relating to reliability of the estimate. Public health experts have firmly stated that the survey reports are valid, since they are based on comparison with earlier data collected on the same basis.
In a country with so much regional variations, the level of anemia prevalence also differs widely across states and districts. NFHS is the only survey which provides data containing this valuable information at the district level. In the absence of such measurement, there will be no way of scientifically assessing where the need for such intervention is more. In fact, in the last survey, states like Gujarat and W. Bengal have figured high on the list.
AIDWA wishes to underline that the main reason for this step being taken is to make the problem of anaemia go away by rendering it invisible. Having failed to address the problem in the past, and being unwilling to take necessary steps in the future, public relations management is substituting for public health management.
We wish to point out that the Government is resorting to elimination of anaemia data while at the same time it is all set to introduce iron fortified rice (an unproven nutritional intervention) on a nationwide scale. The keenness to extend support to industry appears to have overwhelmed the importance of assessing and addressing anaemia prevalence and malnutrition in the country.
Hence, AIDWA demands that the decision to exclude anaemia from the NFHS -6 survey be immediately revoked and its measurement be reinstituted without any delay. Iron-fortified rice should not be introduced into food security strategies of the Government in such unseemly haste. Rather, comprehensive measures to address anaemia and malnutrition amongst large sections of our people, especially women and children must be undertaken. This must include steps to control soaring prices of essential commodities, and strengthening of the Public Distribution System.