One survey showed that more than 85% of districts (241 out of 282) are Iodine Deficiency Disorder endemic63. This places about 329 million people at risk, equivalent to a third of India’s population or a sixth of the total global population that is at risk of IDD. Of those who suffer from IDD in India, 51 million are school-aged children (aged 6 to 12 years). A third of all children in the world that are born with IDD-related mental damage live in India.
The prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in India is one of the highest in the world, especially among preschool children. The prevalence of subclinical VAD ranges from 31% to 57% among preschool children and a further 1% to 2% of children suffer from clinical VAD. VAD is estimated to precipitate the deaths of more than 0.3 million children annually in India. VAD is also prevalent among women of reproductive age and clinical symptoms of night blindness are extremely widespread.
With severe anemia from iron deficiency claiming the lives of 22,000 women during pregnancy and childbirth each year, Irondeficiency anemia (IDA) is an extremely serious public health problem in India, especially among pregnant women and children. At least half of all ever-married women aged 15-49 years and adolescent girls are believed to have some degree of IDA. The prevalence of IDA among children is much higher than among adult women, and may be partly attributable to the high prevalence of hookworm among children. The overall prevalence of anemia among children aged 6 to 35 months is 74% and most suffer from mild (23%) or moderate (46%) anemia.
Source: India’s Undernourished Children: A Call for Reform and Action, 2005, World Bank
Micro Nutrients deficiencies represent what is known as the ‘hidden hunger.’ Without micronutrients – or essential vitamins and minerals – the human body does not grow and function properly. The consequences of not getting enough vitamins and minerals can range from birth defects and mental impairment to child deaths due to lowered immune system and susceptibility to diseases.
However, the good news is that like most of the nutrition programs, these deficiencies can be addressed by simple steps such as fortification and small yet significant changes in the dietary practices. Agencies like the Micro Nutrient Initiatives are actively promoting these and collaborating with the government on various fortification programs including rice and wheat fortification. In addition, simple programs on dissemination of information about dietary practices can play a big role. Finally, the programs need to be linked with the overall food security program.
How can the Micronutrient deficiencies be effectively addressed?