Our kids are hungry

Malnutrition ravages India's children

According to Global Nutrition Report 2018, India has one third of the world’s population of underfed or malnourished kids. World Health Organization defines malnutrition as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. It can cause stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

Findings by UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2019 report reveal that malnutrition was the cause of 69% children dying before the age of five. Every second child in India is suffering from malnutrition. This is shocking as India is ironically the world’s 2nd largest growing economy. After the economic reforms of 1991, India has seen GDP growth of above 6% every year. India also has the world’s largest program of combating malnourishment. There are many central and state run schemes that provide ration to the extremely vulnerable section. India also has one of the largest public distribution system for grains. Yet, national and international reports and studies regularly highlight child deaths due to malnutrition in India. In this domain, India has fallen behind the poorest countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia like Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and others despite having a higher GDP rate and per capita income.

Malnutrition is further complicated in India where social inequality plays a very important role. A girl child is more likely to be malnourished than a boy child in a family. Similarly, a lower cast child is more likely to be undernourished than an upper cast child. The situation is grimmer in poorer states like Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Odisha. The effect of child malnutrition has directly resulted in neonatal disorders, severe respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases in children.

Such findings raise questions about the efficiency of various schemes like Child Development Scheme(1975), National Nutrition Policy(1993), Mid-Day Meal Scheme(1995) and National Food Security Act(2013)  launched by the government to combat malnutrition. A country that produces three billionaires every month should be ashamed that 3000 of its kids die of hunger every day.