New Delhi: Last year on July 24, three sisters from Delhi – Mansi, Shikha, and Parul aged eight, four and two years respectively made headlines across the country because they succumbed to starvation. This year in June, 65-year-old Ramachandra Munda from Jharkhand made it to the news when he allegedly died due to hunger. This is not just the story of one or two cases in our country, it is the story of millions and millions of people who sleep on an empty stomach. According to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study by the University of Washington, Malnutrition was the top cause of death and disability in India in 2017, followed by dietary risks including poor diet choices.
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Over the years, India has shown exemplary performance in terms of economic growth, there has been a significant increase in GDP, we are making our way to the moon, but we are still a country where 194.4 million people are undernourished. This is 14.5 per cent of the total population, states the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2019′ report. The Global Hunger Index 2018 ranks India at 103 out of 119 countries on the basis of three leading indicators – the prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under 5 years, child mortality rate under 5 years and the proportion of undernourished in the population. It states that India is suffering from serious problem of hunger and malnutrition.
What Is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term malnutrition covers ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age), micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies and overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).
Highlights Of The Malnutrition Crisis In India
- India Has One-Third Of World’s Stunted Children | Stunting, or low height for age is caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections. The Global Nutrition Report 2018 states that India is home to 46.6 million stunted children out of a total of 150.8 million stunted children in the world.
- India Has Highest Level Of Child Wasting In South Asia | Wasting, or low weight for height, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. This is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease. According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, India also accounted for 25.5 million children out of the 50.5 million children who are wasted globally, or half of the global wasting burden, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million) and Indonesia (3.3 million).
- India Has More Than A Million Overweight Children | Our country also figures among the set of countries that has more than a million overweight children. The other nations are China, Indonesia, India, Egypt, US, Brazil and Pakistan, states the Global Nutrition Report 2018. A joint study by Assocham and EY states that apart from facing undernutrition challenge, Urban India is also suffering from overnutrition. The “Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013” report ranks India as the third most obese nation in the world after the US and China. Also, India is the diabetes capital of the world, with about 69.2 million people living with it as per the 2015 data by World Health Organisation.
- Bihar Tops Stunting List; Bihar’s District Stuns Africa In Child Nutrition | The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 2015-2016, India’s biggest survey on the status of health, shows that as many as 48.3 per cent of Bihar’s children under five years – meaning half the number of children in the state – are ‘stunted’ owing to poor nutrition. In comparison to this, only 31.3 per cent children in Africa are found to be stunted, as per WHO.
World Health Organisation (WHO), states that 43 African countries have a lower prevalence of stunted children than Bihar’s Muzaffarpur. Apart from stunting, Africa outperforms Muzaffarpur even in checking the prevalence of wasting (being too thin for their height) among children.
- Five Major States Of India Have The Most Malnourished Children | National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) further states that Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, have more than 40 per cent of their children stunted.
- In West Bengal, Cases Of Malnutrition Have Increased | National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) states West Bengal has more children under five years of age, who are “wasted” and “severely wasted”, compared to the last national-level survey held in 2005. According to NFHS-4 report, 20.3 per cent children in West Bengal are wasted and 6.5 per cent are severely wasted. In the past, 16.9 per cent children in the same age bracket were wasted and 4.5 per cent were severely wasted.
- Breastfeeding Prevents Malnutrition, Yet Mere 54.9 Per Cent Of Babies Are Exclusively Breastfed | Breastfeeding is considered the most important cure for malnutrition and National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) states that only 54.9 per cent of babies in India are exclusively breastfed and only 41.6 per cent of babies are breastfed in the first hour of birth. Further, the survey also states that less than 10 per cent of children receive adequate nutrition in the country.
- Anaemia In Mothers Linked With Malnutrition In Children | As per the United Nations report, 51.4 per cent of women in reproductive ages are anaemic. Maternal Anaemia has a significant effect on the nutritional status of young children leading to stunting and underweight.
- India May Loose $46 Billion To Malnourishment By 2030 | The global economic impact of malnutrition could be a staggering $125 billion by 2030, with India accounting for nearly $46 billion, according to the first international study of its kind in four countries done by a British charity, ‘Save the Children’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently pledged for a Kuposhan Mukt Bharat or Malnutrition-free India by 2022 and has asked every citizen to help in achieving this goal. Moreover, the government has also decided to mark September as the ‘Poshan’ (nutrition) Month with a goal to improve the nutritional status of children up to 6 years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. The objective is to achieve specific targets for reduction in reducing the number of instances of low birth weight babies, stunting growth, undernutrition and prevalence of anaemia over the next three years.
Various reports published over the last one month – Global Hunger Index, UNICEF’S State Of the World’s Children – among others, have highlighted the crisis of Malnutrition in India