India home to a third of world's stunted children, says report

Henrietta Strickland
December 2, 2018

It places India at the forefront as the country with the largest number of children who are stunted at 46.6 million, followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million).

Reducing food waste could also improve nutrition, said Sir John Beddington, co-chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, an independent group of experts.

The mapping showed that stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4 per cent to 65.1 per cent), with 239 of the 604 districts having stunting levels above 40 per cent. "Diets are one of the top risk factors of morbidity and mortality in the world - more than air pollution, more than smoking", said Jessica Fanzo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and a lead author.

"Each year more than half of all the fruits and vegetables produced globally are lost or wasted", he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. While the world has 150.8 million stunted children and 50.5 "wasted"(those who do not weigh enough for their height), the numbers for India are forty-six million and 25.5 million respectively. Share of severely wasted children also rose from 6.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent during the same period.

The independently produced report, which shows Africa to be the region that is hardest hit by both forms of malnutrition, said diet was a higher risk factor for health than air pollution or even smoking.

Wasting, usually caused by acute food shortage or disease, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five years of age.

Several countries are on course to meet at least one of the globally adopted nutrition targets set for 2025, but most are off-track and none are making progress on the full suite of targets.

In India, particularly, the burden is heavier than any other nation. It added, more boys than girls are stunted and wasted.

Overweight and obesity has led to around 4 million deaths and 120 million healthy years of life lost across the globe, with around 38.9 per cent adults found to be overweight, the report says.

In low- and middle-income countries, infants and young kids are consuming packaged snack foods such as soft drinks, juice, savoury snacks, sweet biscuits, cakes and candies on a regular basis, says the report.

Overweight and obesity among adults are at record levels with 38.9% of adults overweight or obese, stretching from Africa to North America, and increasing among adolescents.

Moreover, women have a higher burden than men when it comes to certain forms of malnutrition: one third of all women of reproductive age have anaemia and women have a higher prevalence of obesity than men.

Poor diets are among the top causes of ill health globally, accounting for almost one in five deaths, according to a study published on Thursday that called on governments and businesses to do more to improve eating habits.

Co-chairwoman of the report, and director of the Centre for Food Policy, Corinna Hawkes, said the figures called for "immediate action". The Ministry of Women and Child Development now plans to tackle malnutrition with the help of technology. Most of the stunted children are in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. Apart from these three, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and Gujarat were the states with highest incidence of stunting.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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