GUWAHATI, Sept 15 - Owing to the poor dietary practices and age-old birth-related taboos among the people belonging to the minority community, Dhubri has reported more than 250 cases of severe acute malnutrition among newborn babies in the last couple of years, the highest in the State.
The high incidence of malnutrition cases in Dhubri has emerged as one of the underlining reasons behind the district earning the dubious distinction of recording one of the highest deaths of children below one year of age in the country.
Significantly, there have also been deaths of three acute malnourished newborn babies during the period in Dhubri. While two deaths were due to Marasmus (lean and thin/prominent bones), the other deaths was owing to Kwashiorkor (overweight/swelling).
Experts while informing that most cases which are reported in Dhubri are those related to disproportionate �weight for length� score of a baby (which is also called Z score) maintained that the number could go much higher if a proper assessment is made.
�These (250) are cases which get reported in the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) but the actual picture is much grimmer. Back-to-back multiple pregnancy and the taboos associated with food habits during pregnancy and lactating period contribute a lot to malnutrition, which is the underlining cause of child mortality,� a Dhubri-based health expert told this reporter.
�Illiteracy is the key. Even if the parents are counselled on the subject, they hardly adhere to the norms. Unlike what many believes, nutritious food is not necessarily a costly buy,� the health expert pointed out.
Dhubri according to the National Health Mission has the highest number of admission of acute malnutrition cases in the State followed by Dibrugarh, where the tea garden population is the biggest contributor.
Although there ought to be 30 Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) and 45 Nutrition Counseling cum Management Centres in the State, at present only 19 NRCs and 38 NCMCs are functional. In the NRCs, the severe acute malnourished children are treated with special therapeutic diets and medical care, while in the NCMCs only counselling of children, pregnant women and adolescents are done.
Dibrugarh, sources said, also reported nearly 200 cases of children suffering from severe malnourishment last year, with most of the cases originating from tea gardens.