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Growth issues: One in three Indian children will exhibit stunting by 2022

The Financial Express
Malnutrition fell at the rate of 1% per year over the past decade, the slowest decline amongst emerging economies. (Representational Image)

The Food and Nutrition Security Analysis of India, 2019, a report by the Government of India and UN World Food Programme, says that, by 2022, 31.4% of Indian children-or nearly one in three-will exhibit stunting. Findings of the report, a base line analysis in assessing India's progress in meeting the second Sustainable Development Goal (tackling hunger), mean that the efforts under the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) that aims to contain prevalence of stunting in children to 25% must be significantly stepped up. Malnutrition fell at the rate of 1% per year over the past decade, the slowest decline amongst emerging economies. For the government to meet the SDG target, it must fall by 2 ppts per year.

Many researchers make particular note of the poverty trap in India’s malnutrition story-a malnourished mother gives birth to a weak and a stunted child, and thus malnutrition is passed on from one generation to another. Given how under-nutrition affects a child's cognitive growth, resulting in the child getting left behind, the poverty cycle is also continued. The poorest 30% of the population have an average per capita consumption of 1811 kCal/day vs the advised normal of 2,155 kCal/day. There is also disparate effect of stunting across Indian states-Bihar and UP have one in two children stunted, whereas, Kerala and Goa have one in five children stunted. Communities such as SCs and STs (42.5% and 43.6%, respectively) are also at a bigger disadvantage compared to other communities. As an article in The Hindu notes, only 16% of the total funds allocated to the Poshan Abhiyan (NNM) have been used so far. The government must double its efforts and, most importantly, improve accessibility for all communities.