A nutrition survey by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has found that 35 per cent of children under the age of 5 years in the country are stunted, while 17 per cent are wasted and 33 per cent are underweight.
Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS), the first-ever nationally representative nutrition survey of children and adolescents in India, was commissioned by the ministry and carried out by experts from various institutes, including PGIMER Chandigarh, Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital in New Delhi, along with experts from UNICEF and other development partners.
The survey, conducted between 2016 and 2018, also found that 24 per cent of adolescents were thin for their age, 4-8 per cent of adolescents were overweight or obese, 6 per cent of adolescents were overweight, and 2 per cent had abdominal obesity.
The study also found that 10.4 percent of 10-19 year-olds in India are pre-diabetic, which experts say is largely due to consumption of processed foods and sedentary lifestyles.
The survey observed: “In the CNNS, 35 per cent of Indian children aged 0-4 years were stunted. A number of the most populous states including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and had a high (37-42 per cent stunting prevalence. The lowest prevalence of stunting (16-21 per cent) was found in Goa and Jammu and Kashmir. A higher prevalence of stunting in under-fives was found in rural areas (37 per cent) compared to urban areas (27 per cent). Also, children in the poorest wealth quintile were more likely to be stunted (49 per cent), as compared to 19 per cent in the richest quintile.”
According to the survey, 17 per cent of Indian children age 0-4 years were wasted. High prevalence (20 per cent) states included Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. The states with the lowest prevalence of under-five wasting were Manipur, Mizoram and Uttarakhand (6 per cent each).
The study also found that 41 per cent of preschoolers, 24 per cent of school-age children and 28 per cent of adolescents were anaemic. Anaemia was a moderate or severe public health problem among preschoolers in 27 states, among school-age children in 15 states, and among adolescents in 20 states.
Some of the figures in the CNNS survey, conducted between 2016 and 2018, are marginally lower than the malnutrition data from the National Family Health Survey that dates back to 2015-16.
According to data from the National Family Health Survey 4, 38.4 per cent of India’s children aged less than 5 years were stunted, 21 per cent were wasted, and 35.7 per cent were underweight.
Dr Vinod Paul, a member of Niti Aayog, said, “It is reassuring that stunting is showing an annual decline of 1-2 percentage points. We had set a target of 2 per cent per year for Poshan Maah, so this shows we will be able to accelerate. However, the worrying part is the number of adolescents who are in the pre-diabetic range.”