India is among the countries accounting for the highest burden of stunted, wasted and overweight children, the new Global Nutrition Report, 2018 reflecting the growing concern around child nutrition in the country.
With 46.6 million stunted children, India accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s 150.8 million children who are stunted, the report shows warning against a major malnutrition crisis.. India is followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million). The three countries together are home to almost half of all stunted children in the world. This is despite the improvement made by India in reducing stunting since 2005-06. According to the latest National Family Health Survey-4 data, India recorded a 10 percentage point decline in stunting from 48% during 2005-06 to 38.4% in 2015-16. Stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long term insufficient nutrient-intake and frequent infections.
Underlining the variation in stunting within the country, the report said India is so diverse, it is important to understand how and why stunting prevalence differs. “The mapping showed that stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4% to 65.1%), with 239 of 604 districts having stunting levels above 40%,” it said.
Apart from stunting, India also accounts for the largest number of wasted children in the world with low weight for height. India recorded 25.5 million children who are wasted, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million). According to NFHS-4, the percentage of wasted children under five years increased from 19.8% in 2005-06 to 21% in 2015-16. Share of severely wasted children also rose from 6.4% to 7.5% during the same period. Wasting, usually caused by acute food shortage or disease, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five years of age.
India also figures among countries that have over a million overweight children.