Fight stunting, says World Bank chief

World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim visited an anganwadi centre here on Wednesday to weigh India’s intervention aimed at childhood stunting.

Dr. Kim will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, to get a stronger commitment for scaling up investments to fight child malnutrition.

Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Kim said that he would offer the Prime Minister his complete assistance in developing a new nationwide approach to improve nutrition.

“In just about every developing country, there is not enough appreciation of investing in health, education, social security and economic growth. Most of the FDI is coming into India on the assumption that there will be a workforce able to take them into the next generation. Prime Minister Modi has been talking about a new nationwide approach to improve nutrition and I am here to offer my complete assistance for that,” he said.

The latest data from the fourth round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS), released earlier this year, showed that 37 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted. The data was released for 15 States and points to a slow reduction in malnourishment, with a fall of just five percentage points in a decade.

While Delhi – one of the better performing States — has nearly 30% stunted children, States like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the worst off, with 48 and 42 per cent respectively of children stunted. “The reason I am pushing so hard on stunting is because we have spent a lot of time looking at possible paths of economic development in developing countries. It is my suggestion to the government of India to work with us on stunting. This is the bottom line: if you walk into the future economy with 40% of your workforce having been stunted as children, you are simply not going to be able to compete. It is the right thing to do morally, ethically and I have said that my entire career. But now, it is also the right thing to do for medium and long term economic growth,” said Dr. Kim.

The World Bank is recommending that stunting figures from all countries be shared annually at the World Economic Forum, to keep Finance Ministers committed to ensuring that economic progress translated to countries achieving health targets, he said.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 3:57:54 AM |

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