India's shame: 42% children malnourished | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India's shame: 42% children malnourished

At a time when India is striding ahead economically, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday termed the prevalence of 42 % malnourished children in the country a "national shame. Watch what PM said | Special: Tracking Hunger

delhi Updated: Jan 11, 2012 01:55 IST
Manmohan Singh
A-malnourished-boy-called-Roshan-3-pulls-at-his-mother-s-breasts-in-Sunda-village-in-Baran-district-Data-on-the-health-of-Sahariya-children-in-five-Rajasthan-villages-are-shocking-apart-from-42-of-children-who-are-malnourished-25-93-are-severely-malnourished-and-1-85-suffer-severe-acute-malnourishment

At a time when India is striding ahead economically, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday termed the prevalence of 42 % malnourished children in the country a "national shame."

Releasing a report on Hunger and Malnutrition survey, brought out by Naandi Foundation, the PM said though child nutrition is on a decline, the prevailing levels are still unacceptable. "... the problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame. Despite impressive growth in our GDP, the level of under-nutrition in the country is unacceptably high," the PM said.

The report, which surveyed 1,09,093 children and 74,000 women in 112 districts, including 100 districts with the poorest child development indicators found that prevalence of child malnutrition had dipped to 42 % from 53 % in the last seven years. "This represents a 20.3 % decrease over a seven year period with an average annual rate of reduction of 2.9 %," the report states.

While 42 % of the children under five are underweight, 59 % had stunted growth. The 100 focus districts surveyed are located across six states -- Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The survey also found that awareness among mothers about nutrition is very low, with a whopping 92 % never having heard the word "malnutrition". The survey also revealed that though prevalence of malnutrition is significantly higher among children from low-income families, children from Muslim or SC/ST households generally have worse nutrition indicators.

Calling it an "unacceptably high occurrence", Singh said, "We need to focus on districts where malnutrition levels are high and where conditions causing malnutrition prevail. Though the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) continues to be our most important tool to fight malnutrition, we can no longer rely solely on it."

ICDS is the country's oldest programme to monitor health and nutrition among children under the age of six years. It has come under repeated flak for failing to check the high rate of child malnourishment.