All parents feed their children the best they can but are the kids getting the right nutrition? It’s highly unlikely.
Less than one in 10 children aged six months to 23 months in India gets an adequate diet, shows data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS4) released in March. The nutritional intake of children in cities is only marginally better than rural children – only 11.6% urban kids and 8.8% rural children have an adequate diet that includes four or more food groups, excluding milk.
As a result, more than one in three under-5 children in India are underweight, including 29% urban children.India is also home to the largest number of stunted children in the world, with close to two in five (38.4%) children under-5 years being small for age because of unhealthy diets. The problem of undernutrition is not just a rural phenomenon -- 31% children in India’s cities are stunted. An additional 21% are wasted (low weight for age), and 7.5% are severely wasted, with the numbers being almost the same for children living in urban and rural areas.
Of particular concern is the growing double burden of stunted and overweight children because of parents increasingly relying on calorie-dense foods that lack the nutrition children need to grow and develop. While there is no estimate for under-5 obesity in India, 42 million children under age 5 are overweight worldwide, up from 31 million in 2000.
Critical thousand days
Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life causes irreversible damage to the child’s body and mind. In extreme cases, malnutrition kills and is responsible for nearly half of the world’s 5.9 million under-5 deaths – 16,000 each day, estimates the World Health Organisation. One in five of these deaths take place in India.
Poor nutrition not only makes children smaller than average, but also lowers their immunity and puts them at risk of frequent infections and nutrition-related diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity as adults. Undernourished children have reduced muscle strength and lower learning abilities and IQ. Unicef estimates that stunted adults lose at least 10% decrease in future income over their lifetime.