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Public Health Nutr. 2006 Dec;9(8):961-7.

Studies on the nutritional status of children aged 0-5 years in a drought-affected desert area of western Rajasthan, India.

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  • 1Desert Medicine Research Centre, New Pali Road, Jodhpur, India.



The present study was undertaken to assess the impact of drought on the nutritional status of pre-school children aged 0-5 years from a rural population in a desert area facing drought conditions very frequently.


The sampling design for assessment was the three-stage sampling technique.


The study was carried out in 24 villages belonging to six tehsils (sub-units of district) of Jodhpur District, a drought-affected desert district of western Rajasthan, during a drought in 2003.


A total of 914 children were examined at household level, with nutritional status assessed by anthropometry, dietary intake and clinical signs of nutritional deficiency.


The results revealed growth retardation. Stunting (malnutrition of long duration) was observed in 53% of children and underweight in 60%. Wasting, an indicator of short-duration malnutrition, was present in 28% of children. The extent of malnutrition was significantly higher in girls than boys (P<0.05). Vitamin A and B complex deficiencies were found in 0.7 and 3.0% of children, respectively. Prevalence of marasmus (protein-energy malnutrition, PEM) was 1.7% (2.3% in boys and 1.1% in girls). Overall deficits in mean energy and protein intakes were very high (76 and 54%, respectively). Comparison of the present drought results with earlier studies in desert normal and desert drought conditions showed higher prevalence of PEM and higher dietary energy and protein deficiencies.


The prevalence of wasting was high, greater than the cut-off point of 15% stated by the World Health Organization to indicate that the severity of malnutrition is critical. PEM, vitamin A and B complex deficiencies and anaemia, along with dietary deficits of energy and protein, were observed to be higher than in non-desert areas. This may be due to the harsh environmental conditions in desert areas where drought occurs quite frequently and adversely affects the economy, largely by eroding the coping capacity and economic potential of the people as a result of heavy livestock losses and reduced harvests, leading to increased poverty and poor food intake of the inhabitants. Due to inadequate consumption of daily food the children were suffering from wasting and PEM. Efforts should be made to incorporate measures, such as ensuring the supply of adequate energy and protein to all age groups and especially pre-school children, into ongoing nutrition programmes in order to improve the food security of local inhabitants in this area.

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