1. Original Scientific Paper

Aim: Undernutrition is one of the most important problems facing developing countries, including rural India. However, there exists scanty information on the prevalence of undernutrition in the form of stunting, wasting and underweight among preschool children of Sundarban area of West Bengal, India.

Methods: This study was carried out among 656 (326 boys; 330 girls) 3-5 years old rural preschool children of Bengalee ethnicity at 28 Integrated Child Development Services centres of Sagar Block, South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal, India. Anthropometric measurements were recorded according to standard procedure and < -2 z-scores of height-for-age, weight-for-height and weight-for-age age were used to evaluate the level of stunting, wasting and underweight, respectively, following the World Health Organization Guidelines.

Results: It revealed that boys were significantly taller and heavier than girls at age combined and also at age 4 & 5 years, except at age 3 years when girls were taller. The overall age and sex combined data showed that rates of stunting, wasting and underweight were 26.22%, 35.37% and 51.07%, respectively. The rates of stunting, wasting and underweight were higher among boys (stunting = 28.22%, wasting = 40.80%, underweight = 53.37%) compared with girls (stunting = 24.24%, wasting = 30.00%, underweight = 48.79). Based on the World Health Organization classification of severity of malnutrition, the overall prevalence of wasting (35.37%) and underweight (51.07%) was very high (≥15%; ≥30%).

Conclusion: The nutritional status of the subjects was unsatisfactory. There is scope for improvement in the form of enhanced supplementary nutrition.

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