Every fourth child in the 10 most-populous Indian cities has stunted growth and development due to malnutrition, according to a report released on Wednesday.
Across the 10 most populous cities, the prevalence of stunting is 22.3 per cent and of being underweight (low weight for age) is 21.4 per cent among under five children. Overall, 13.8 per cent children below five years are wasted (low weight for height) and 15.7 per cent newborns have low birth weight at less than 2.5 kg.
In an example of ‘double burden of malnutrition’ (coexistence of undernutrition and obesity or diet-related non-communicable diseases), 2.4 per cent of children were found to be overweight.
The prevalence of overweight children ranges from from 0.7 per cent in Hyderabad to 3.7 per cent in Chennai, higher among children from the highest wealth quintile.
The Urban HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Survey Report was released by the Citizens Alliance, led by young parliamentarians, and the Naandi Foundation on Wednesday. The survey is based on a systematic sampling methodology covering 12,000 households and was conducted during April-July 2014 across Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
The city-wise data shows that Chennai fares relatively better across all three indicators. The prevalence of stunting ranged from 14.8 per cent in Chennai to an alarming 30.6 per cent in Delhi. Mumbai has the highest proportion of wasted children at 19 per cent, Jaipur has the lowest at 10.8 per cent; Hyderabad has the highest number of underweight children at 25.8 per cent and Chennai the least at 13.5 per cent.
The study shows that overall malnutrition is significantly higher among children whose mothers had five years of schooling or less and among households in the lowest wealth quintile. Rohini Mukherjee, who led the survey team for Naandi Foundation, said that the existing NHFS 4 (National Family Health Survey) district-level data does not have disaggregated data for urban and rural areas within each district.
“We therefore had to undertake a fresh survey covering a random sample of 12,286 mothers and 14,616 children under five years,” she said. Manoj Kumar of Naandi Foundation said that the three underlying reasons for the prevalence of malnutrition are “the poor status of women, prevalence of household poverty and lack of government service delivery centres.” BJP MP Poonam Mahajan, who was present at the release, said while it was always known that malnutrition was chronic in districts such as Palghar and Thane, it was shocking that even Mumbai fared so poorly.
Former MP Sachin Pilot said, “We now have to take up this issue on a war-footing just like the way we eradicated polio. This has great economic consequences on the already have-nots.”