Over the Past Decade, Child Stunting in India Declined Only by 1%
In the past decade, stunting has reduced only by 1% among children below five in the country, which is the slowest rate of decline among emerging economies and most countries in Asia, reveals a new report by the United Nations World Food Programme, in collaboration with India’s Ministry of Statistics. Continuing at the current rate, by 2022, 31.4% of Indian children under the age of five will be stunted.
“Despite India becoming self-sufficient in food grain production with a large increase in the production of rice, wheat, and other cereals, the per capita availability of these grains has not increased at the same level due to inequality, population growth, food wastage and losses, and exports,” said Herve Verhoosel, the World Food Programme spokesperson at a UN briefing.
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Stunting, a measure of malnutrition, is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition and repeated infection. Stunting in early life — particularly in the first 1,000 days, from conception until the age of two – has adverse functional consequences on the child, such as poor cognition and educational performance.
The report said India should reduce stunting among children under five by at least 2% annually in order to reach the target of 25% by 2022 set under the National Nutrition Mission. Goa and Kerala already achieved the target, according to the 2015-2016 National Family Health Survey. Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Puducherry and Tripura have also reached the target. Punjab, at 25.7%, is close to achieving it.
As far as the prevalence of stunting in children under five years of age is concerned, Bihar tops the charts with 48%, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 46%. Jharkhand (45%), and Meghalaya (44%) come next.
These malnutrition rates are “well below acceptable levels,” said Verhoosel, despite positive trends and patterns of improving food security.