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India struggling to cut malnutrition rates: reports

The latest data show that 39 per cent of children under the age of five in India are short for their age.

The latest data show that 39 per cent of children under the age of five in India are short for their age.  

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Global Nutrition Report says nation on course to meet only 2 of 8 targets.

Two reports released on Thursday, one at the global level and the other India-specific, say the country is on track to meet only two (under-five overweight and exclusive breastfeeding rates) of the eight global targets for reducing malnutrition by 2030.

The latest data show that 39 per cent of children under five in India are short for their age (stunted). The two States that had the worst stunting rates in 2005-06 — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — have made the least progress over the 2005-2014 period, noted the Global Nutrition Report, the first of its kind to be released. The global rate is 24 per cent.

The India Health Report (IHR), 2015, offers a critical analysis of nutrition at the national and State levels. The IHR compared nutrition levels among children in 28 States and Delhi.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, co-author of the IHR, said: “We focussed on the topic of child stunting and malnutrition, given its magnitude and persistence in our country. Even with recent impressive improvements, India’s stunting problem represents the largest loss of human potential in any country in human history. If the population of stunted children in India were a single country, it would be the ninth largest country in the world. Even more worrisome, the problem of under-nutrition in India now coexists with the problem of over-nutrition and associated non-communicable diseases for a different segment of the population.”

Purnima Menon, co-author and senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said: “The scope of action needs to be broad, but given the tremendous variability in implementation across States on delivery of indicators of nutrition and health programmes, water and sanitation coverage, food security and anti-poverty programmes, there is a clear need to invest in closing delivery gaps. Our report also highlights the critical relationships between indicators of women’s status and nutrition, and this is an absolutely urgent area for action.”

Malnutrition reduction

The GNR notes an increase in the number of countries on track to meet global nutrition targets, and encourages countries to establish specific and time-bound targets for malnutrition reduction that are consistent with the new Sustainable Development Goals. National targets should help accelerate progress and promote accountability.

While the GNR points to India’s improved performance in reducing its high burden of malnutrition, both reports conclude that this improvement should be much more rapid.

Lawrence Haddad, the co-chair of the GNR and a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said: “India’s accelerated rate of reduction in under 5 malnutrition is not only good for Indian families and the Indian economy, but it is also good for the world. In fact, India has the opportunity to do for malnutrition reduction in the SDG era what China did for poverty reduction in the MDG era.”

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Printable version | Jul 17, 2019 1:29:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-struggling-to-cut-malnutrition-rates-reports/article7972810.ece

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