​‘India needs $6bn a year to deal with child stunting’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 18, 2016

With nearly one-half of all children under 3 years of age either underweight or stunted, India will require at least $6 billion annually to deliver nutrition-specific interventions at full coverage, says a paper published in a report, ‘Stop Stunting in South Asia’.

The report, published in the special issue of the international journal, Maternal and Child Nutrition, said there was evidence that South Asia was the epicentre of the global child stunting crisis, which was holding back development of the region.

“The latest data indicate that 38 per cent of South Asia’s children under 5 years of age – about 64 million - have stunted growth due to chronic nutritional deprivation,” says the report, adding that the consequences could lead to physical and neuro-cognitive damage that is most often irreversible.

“Over the last two decades, the prevalence of stunting in South Asia declined from about 61 per cent to about 38 per cent. This is a remarkable achievement. The challenge ahead is to accelerate progress…. South Asian countries cannot afford the cost of inaction” Victor Aguayo, UNICEF Regional Nutrition Advisor for South Asia, said in a release.

The paper on India said populous States, such as Uttar Pradesh would require more funds (close to $1 billion) for delivering the interventions, compared with States, such as Kerala or Chhattisgarh.

“A challenge for India, looking ahead, is managing fiscal devolution appropriately for health and nutrition to ensure that at the State-level, adequate financing will continue to be available,” it adds.

Noting that India has among the highest rates of child malnutrition rates in the world, the report, however, notes the rapid decline during the past decade.

“Between 2006 and 2014, stunting rates for children under five in India have declined from 48 per cent to 38 per cent (Global Nutrition Report, 2014),” it says, noting that the decline varies across States.

“Some States, including Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Delhi, had large rates of reduction in stunting, but overall levels of under-nutrition remained high because of high baseline rates. Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Jharkhand, the situation has not changed significantly,” it said.

Citing global evidence, the report said child malnutrition was “only weakly correlated with income”, adding that in India, a quarter of children from the top income quintile were stunted in 2006 – a marker for poor environmental, sanitation, micronutrient deficiencies, among others.

Published on May 18, 2016
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