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39 per cent kids below 5 years are stunted

Published : Dec 11, 2015, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Dec 11, 2015, 12:09 am IST

Home to over 40 million stunted children and 17 million wasted children under five years of age, India lags behind the world and its neighbours on the nutritional status of the children.

Home to over 40 million stunted children and 17 million wasted children under five years of age, India lags behind the world and its neighbours on the nutritional status of the children.

The recent “India health report: Nutrition 2015” revealed that approximately 39 per cent of all children under five years are stunted (short for their age). With the current pace of declining, India is unlikely to meet the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition targets, the report said.

Ironically, the report found that the continuing problem of undernutrition in India now coexists with the problem of overweight and obesity and associated non-communicable diseases.

According to the data, 38.7 per cent of Indian children under 5 are stunted, 19.8 per cent are wasted and 42.5 per cent are underweight. Even as the report claimed that childhood undernutrition rates have been declining at an accelerated pace, the developments are below the rate which is needed to meet the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition targets to which India is signatory.

The report suggested that India in fact lags behind many countries in sub-Saharan countries and some states in India compare unfavourably to the poorest countries in Africa.

As per the report, the faster annual rate of reduction in stunting since 2006 that is 2.3 per cent per year though is approaching the rate of decline in other countries but it is not enough.

Between 2011-2014, Nepal had a 3.3 per cent average annual reduction in stunting rates compared to 2.3 in India which is similar to Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

At this rate, India will achieve the current stunting rate of Ghana or Togo only by 2030 and the current stunting rate of China (10 per cent ) only in 2055.

While the report found that between 2006-2014 in India,stunting rates under five declined from 48-39 per cent, translating into 14 million fewer stunted children and declines in wasting translated to more than 7 million fewer wasted children. Despite, the progress child undernutrition rates in India are among the highest in the World, with nearly half of all children under three years of age being either underweight or stunted.

States like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Delhi had relatively large rates of reduction in stunting but over all levels of undernutrition remain high. However, the report found that in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Jharkhand the situation has not undergone significant change. “If India is to continue its economic growth trajectory, the problem of nutrition as a developmental imperative has to be tackled with urgency,” the report further said.

With little change over time, the report revealed that 75 per cent among children under five and over half of women of child bearing age are anemic. The report found that prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is 57 per cent among children under five. “Goiter (caused by iron deficiency affects 26 per cent of the population and over all 19 per cnet in school aged children”.

Union health minister JP Nadda urged policy makers to find out of the box solutions to eradicate malnutrition.

Highlighting the findings from the report Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, PHFI co-author on the India Health Report said, “Even with recent impressive improvements, India’s stunting problem represents the largest loss of human potential in any country in human history. If the population of stunted children in India were a single country, it would be the ninth largest country in the world. Even more worrisome, the problem of undernutrition in India now coexists with the problem of over nutrition and associated non-communicable diseases for a different segment of the populati

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi