Over the decade, there has been an overall reduction in the infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rate in India, yet the country is housing about 50% of undernourished children of the world, reveals the joint study undertaken by ASSOCHAM and Ernst & Young.
The study on ‘Bridging the gap: Tapping the agriculture potential for optimum nutrition’ jointly by ASSOCHAM and EY, has revealed that towards the end of 2015, 40% of the Indian children were undernourished.
About 37% of our under-five children are underweight, 39% are stunted, 21% are wasted and 8% are severely acutely malnourished, adds the joint study.
While the percentage of stunted children under five reduced from 48% in 2005-06 to 39% in 2015-16, the percentage of children who are wasted increased slightly from 19.8% to 21%.
The prevalence of underweight children was higher (38%) in rural areas compared to urban cities (29%). Only about 10% children under the age 6-23 months were reported to receive an adequate diet. This inequality in access is accentuated by the stark state level disparity in nutritional status.
For children 1-5 years of age, the prevalence of underweight children ranged from 42% in the Jharkhand, followed by Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with 37%, 36% and 34.1% respectively, to 14.1% in Manipur. The prevalence of stunting ranged from 50.4% in UP to 19.4% in Kerala. Arunachal Pradesh had the highest levels of wasting with 19% and Sikkim had the lowest level with 5%.
While various forms of under nutrition are predominant in rural India, urban India is faced with the challenge of over nutrition. India is ranked as the third most obese nation of the world after US and China and is called the diabetes capital of the world, with about 69.2 million people living with it as per the 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) data. During 2005—15, there was a considerable increase in the percentage of overweight/obese men from about 9% to 19% and overweight/obese women from about 13% to 21%.
The double burden of malnutrition stresses upon the urgent need to address policy challenges beyond health. The policy needs to focus on reducing health and social inequities within populations, raising educational attainment and providing WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities as well as secured jobs to ensure access to services. The double burden of malnutrition can be seen from the lens of a dual opportunity for double returns. The programmes and policies that aim to address this nutrition burden present a double-win situation.
India continues to consume non- nutritious, non-balanced food either in the form of under nutrition, over nutrition or micro-nutrient deficiencies. It is important to understand that malnutrition derives not just from a lack of food but from a diverse set of interlinked processes linking health, care, education, sanitation and hygiene, access to resources, women’s empowerment and more. The choices that individuals make regarding foods to produce and market and the diets they consume have a direct bearing on nutrition outcomes. Similarly, the availability of nutritious food in markets plays an equally significant role in motivating the community to make the right choices.