Child Nutrition in India

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the first-phase data of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-20 on the twelfth of December. The survey covered 17 States and 5 Union Territories, capturing the state of health using various parameters such as fertility, child nutrition, family planning, etc.

I chose only two parameters that are paramount to linking health and sustainable food systems, i.e. child stunting and child wasting. Child stunting means when a child under age five has a low height for their age – reflecting acute under-nutrition. Child wasting means when a child under age five has low weight for their height – reflecting chronic under-nutrition.

While the data from NFHS reflects the state of child nutrition in these various regions within India, I decided to juxtapose this data with the 2020 Global Hunger Index scores for countries that rack up high on hunger severity. The results, unfortunately, are grim.

In the below chart, I have shown these states and UTs – as though they were countries, placing them head to head with the countries mentioned in the 2020 Global Hunger Index and ranking them up as Top 50 nations with high proportions of stunting and wasting in children under five years. 20 of 22 states and UTs surveyed show up in the top 50.

The figures are startling enough when placed in such an order. It is even more disheartening to see that situation has worsened in most of these states when compared to the previous survey results.