Child malnutrition in India: The unseen catastrophe

Inspite of being one of the fastest developing countries of the world, India still has millions of children she fails to feed, that results in the country being ranked third in malnutrition among South-Asian countries [according to the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report].

India homes around 50% of children in the world that suffers from under-nutrition.

The World Bank rates India as the highest ranking country with the largest demographic of malnourished children in the world. The malnutrition issue in India is even worse than countries like Bangladesh, North Korea, Haiti and Burkina Faso. In India, 44% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished and underweight, while 72% of infants are anaemic.

What is Child Malnutrition?

Malnutrition and ‘inability to meet hunger’, although go hand in hand, has a fine line of difference.

Malnutrition or under-nutrition refers to a condition where the food eaten lacks in the necessary quality and quantity of nutrients needed for the overall development of a child.

There are four indicators that accounts for the score in GHI methodology:

GHI methodology


Reasons for India’s growing Malnutrition :

  • Economic Inequality is a primary factor for malnutrition in India. 22% of the Indian population lives below poverty line. A low pay traps them into a vicious circle of under-nutrition.
  • Undernourished pregnant women are less likely to have healthy babies while the babies contract diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia leading to a higher mortality rate.
  • India’s malnutrition accounts for the increased intake of carbohydrates with minimum or no protein and fat at all. 

States affected by Malnutrition in India :

Malnutrition is common mostly among the rural areas of the country. States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, and Bihar are affected by child malnutrition. Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of children suffering from malnutrition at 60% with Jharkhand following up close behind at 56.5%.

India fighting against Malnutrition :

A number of effective practices have been implemented by the Indian Government to eradicate malnutrition in India.

  • A prior attention should be given to nutritional standards in the rural areas and counselling on the importance of targeting the first 1000 days of a child’s life (from conception in pregnancy to the child’s 2nd birthday) is a necessary step that should be adopted by the Indian government and Health Ministry. 
  • More than 50% of the malnutrition cases in India are due to poor hygienic habits like defecation in the open that leads to intestinal worms in children and other serious infections. Rural areas should have access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) at an affordable cost. 
  • National Mid-Day Meal Schemes
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
  • Bal Kuposhan Mukta Bihar (BKMB)
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandan Yojana (PMMVY)

Malnutrition is a serious issue in India and needs to be worked on effectively soon. With the implementation of important initiatives to fight malnutrition in children and communities, the country will work its way up to a sustainable development.

Malnutrition - an imperiling factor in urban India :

If you thought malnutrition is characteristic of only the rural and the economically backward areas of India, think again. Malnutrition is a malaise that has not spared the cities and towns.

Also, malnutrition not just refers to under-nutrition, it refers to over-nutrition too, the problem that prevails in the urban localities. 34% of children in urban India are malnourished. Children being vulnerable to packaged food and munchies, candies, fast food are under the threat of unbalanced diet that contributes to unhealthy growth and poor immunity. Besides slow and damaged physical growth, malnutrition also stunts IQ level of child.

Prevent malnutrition in urban India :

While the Government is working its best against malnutrition in the remote places of India, tackling malnutrition in urban India depends on parents to a greater extent.

  • The first 1000 days (embryonic stage to 2 years of age) of a child are crucial. So visit a gynaecologist or an obstetrician to know the supplementary medications and maintain a balanced diet chart.
  • After the baby is born, it is important to regularise all the vaccinations for a healthy growth.
  • Breastfeeding is imperative for the first six months and for the next one and a half years (upto 2 yrs.) solid food combined with breastfeeding is important for the baby’s physical and mental development.
  • Avoiding junk and fast food in the growing years of the child. A nutritional balanced diet should be preferred. 

Curb child malnutrition. Find the right Gynaecologist/ paediatrician /dietician near you on ZOYLO. Book appointment online.

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