NEW DELHI – India is in the bottom of the world’s nutrition barometer together with countries like Angola, Cameroon, Congo and Yemen. A study by Save the Children analyzed the governments’ commitments and outcomes in improving nutrition in 36 countries, which are home to 90 percent of undernourished children. The study compared the governments’ performance in tackling under nutrition and child mortality. India’s performance in the barometer indicated both “frail commitments and outcomes,” reported Kounteya Sinha for Times of India.
The data revealed that almost 50 percent of Indian children are underweight and stunted, and more than 70 percent of women and kids have serious nutritional deficiencies such as anemia.
The report also said that children in poor homes are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those in affluent ones. But, one child in five is undernourished even in the wealthiest 20 percent of the population.
India’s neighbours like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are also part of the report, but fared better than India in dealing with malnutrition.
Further, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday dropped from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011 worldwide. Contrastingly, progress in reducing childhood under nutrition has been delayed. It continues to be the underlying cause of more than a third of all child deaths globally at around 2.3 million in 2011.
Save the Children India’s CEO Thomas Chandy said, “We know the geographic areas and the social groups where malnutrition levels are the highest. We also know the reasons. The report is a pointer to the need to back political commitment with adequate resources and effective mechanisms,” as reported by The Times of India.
He further said that “In India, states that have supported their policies and schemes with adequate resources and political will have done much better in dealing with malnutrition and child mortality and maternal mortality.”
The report cautioned that the country is likely to miss the Millennium Development Goal on child mortality. India’s spending on health is awfully low, only 1.67 percent of the GDP has been allocated in the 12th Plan.
Malnutrition is one of the biggest underlying causes of child mortality in the country. The report points out that maternal under nutrition, long-term exposure to a poor diet and repeated infections have also left 165-170 million children under-five stunted, averting them from reaching their full potential.
“Alarmingly, the proportion of wasted children (suffering acute weight loss) actually went up in the second half of the 2000s,” said the report. It quoted that growth has lifted millions out of poverty but it has also been largely unequal, with the benefits increasing to a small segment of the population.
The report also quoted PM Manmohan Singh, who had recently referred to under nutrition levels as a “matter of national shame” with gigantic costs in terms of health, well-being and economic development.