Malnutrition was a leading cause for the death of the children in the ‘below five years old’ category, according to a report on statewise data on malnutrition presented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).
The ICMR report, which was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, said that malnutrition accounted for 68.2% of the deaths of the children aged below five years in India, which translates to 7,06,000 deaths. It was also responsible for 17.3% of total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—a terminology that indicates the number of years that one loses throughout their lifetime owing to illness and disability.
As per a report in Down to Earth, “The prevalence of low birthweight in India in 2017 was 21.4 per cent, child stunting 39.3 per cent, child wasting 15.7 per cent, child underweight 32.7 per cent, anaemia in children 59.7 per cent, anaemia in women 15–49 years of age 54.4 per cent, exclusive breastfeeding 53.3 per cent and overweight child 11.5 per cent.”
It added: “According to the findings, if the trends estimated up to 2017 for the indicators in the National Nutrition Mission 2022 continue in India, there would be 8.9 per cent excess prevalence for low birthweight, 9.6 per cent for stunting, 4.8 per cent for child underweight, 11.7 per cent for anaemia in children, and 13.8 per cent for anaemia in women relative to the 2022 targets.”
The ICMR report also noted that low birth-weight was the largest contributor to malnutrition in children. The prevalence of low birth-weight was 21% in India in 2017—the highest rate recorded in Uttar Pradesh at 24%.
“Because low birth-weight was the largest contributor to child malnutrition DALYs in India, its slow decline should be addressed as a priority. South Asia, with India as its largest component, is estimated to have the highest prevalence of low birth-weight for any region in the world,” the study said.
According to a News18 report, “The (ICMR) report further said that chronic deficiency of energy among women of reproductive age was a manifestation of the long-standing problem of malnutrition in India, which also increases the risk of preterm birth and babies with low birth-weight. The weight of a child at its birth was determined by a host of factors, from maternal nutrition to gestation and the mother's own weight, and was an ‘inter-generational issue’.”
It added: “India needs improvement in the nutritional status of girls and women in the pre-conception period and during pregnancy. Quality of antenatal care, including treatment in cases of complications in pregnancy were also among suggestions made in the report.”