India among worst performers in mitigating malnutrition, says report

Nearly 48% of women in India are anemic, which is better than only two other countries in Asia


India ranks 114th out of 132 countries in stunting among children aged less than five years. Photo: Mint
India ranks 114th out of 132 countries in stunting among children aged less than five years. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: India ranks 114th out of 132 countries in stunting among children aged less than five years. Anemia among women is also a cause of concern as India ranks 170th among 185 countries, shows the Global Nutrition Report prepared by an independent expert group released on Tuesday.

The report analysed the situation in countries against targets set last year in the World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva in May in 2015.

India is off the track on all targets related to malnutrition, except overweight among under-5 children. However, overweight and obesity among adults has been increasing and is a matter of grave concern. In India, 22% of adults are either overweight or obese and 9.5% suffer from diabetes.

Under-5 stunting (low height for age) is 38.7%, putting India in the 34th position among 39 Asian countries. Even for under-5 wasting (low weight for height), India ranks 35 out of 38 countries in Asia.

Nearly 48% of women in India are anemic, which is better than only two other countries in Asia. The WHA target is to bring it down to 15%.

“Going by the current rate of improvement, India will not meet any target except for overweight among children,” said Purnima Menon, senior research fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which oversaw the production of the report.

An independent expert group produces the report, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development and the government of Canada, among others.

“It is not just stunting and wasting, but conditions like diabetes and overweight among adults are also indicators of malnutrition. India does not have a strategy or national plan to address all indicators of malnutrition,” said Menon.

Reacting to findings of the report, Prema Ramachandran, director, Nutrition Foundation of India, said poverty reduction is an important element in tackling nutrition deficiency.

“But we also see that a lot of malnourished children are found in families which do not have lack of food in the household. These are the children who are born of anemic women, or had low weight during birth, or poor breastfeeding,” said Ramachandran.

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