Policy

Despite progress, India still ‘off course’ in correcting child stunting

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

A mid-day meal at a school in Jammu

Global Nutrition Report 2016 sees under-nutrition and obesity rising across the world

India is among the 10 countries that have made some progress but are still “off course” on the World Health Assembly target on child stunting, while on other targets, such anaemia among women, malnutrition and wasting among it is clearly “off course”, says the Global Nutrition Report 2016, released on Wednesday.

“On under-5 stunting, India ranks 114th out of 132 countries, 170th out of 185 countries on anaemia prevalence, 120th out of 130 countries on under-5 wasting and 104th out of 190 countries on diabetes prevalence,” says the report by an independent expert group and the International Food Policy Research Institute, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, among others.

The report noted wide variations in malnutrition rates by wealth, education, age of mother at birth, residence and sex.

“Of countries where data is available, India has the sixth largest gap in prevalence of stunting between the highest and lowest wealth quintiles; and sixth largest gap in prevalence of stunting between females and males,” said the report, adding that only a few States had targets for reduction in malnutrition and anaemia, such as Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

“Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh do not have any time-bound targets for under-5 overweight or low birth weight targets,” it noted.

The report said India needs to focus on all key indicators that are below the threshold levels – per capita supply of total calories, access to clean water, improved sanitation, rates of female secondary education enrolment, and the ratio of female to male life expectancy – to support any reduction in stunting levels.

Also, enhanced nutrition financing was needed, it said, adding that roughly $5.3 billion were allocated toward programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Services and National Health Mission in 2016, against the requirement of an additional $700 million/year for such programmes.

“Programmes such as the Public Distribution System, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Swachh Bharat Mission, which address underlying determinants of malnutrition, received an allocation of $31.6 billion in 2016,” it added.

“Malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of all deaths of children under age 5, and, together with poor diets, is the number one driver of the global burden of disease,” said the report. At least 57 countries are experiencing serious levels of both under-nutrition – including stunting and anaemia – and adult overweight and obesity, putting a massive strain on fragile health systems, the report added.

Pointing out that under-nutrition and adult overweight were rising in every region to “very serious levels”, it called for “political will” at the global level as well as higher budgetary allocations for related programmes.

Published on June 15, 2016

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