By Lisa Schelin
GENEVA — A recent nutritional survey in India finds the country is still far away from achieving its goal of zero hunger for its populous country of more than 1 billion. The report was jointly produced by the UN World Food Program and India's Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.
The report, the first of its kind, provides an intimate look into the progress being made in improving the nutritional status of India's 1.3 billion people by addressing the country's severe food shortages.
While progress is being made toward this goal, World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said India is still far away from wiping out hunger in the country.
"The report indicates that despite positive trends and patterns in improving food security, malnutrition rates are well below acceptable levels, with large numbers of people, especially women and children, suffering from Vitamin A, iron, and iodine deficiency," said Verhoosel.
The report indicates stunting (low height-for-age) has declined by one-fifth in India during the last decade. Nevertheless, it notes 6.4% of children under 5 are both stunted and wasted (low weight-for-height) and also are underweight. A much larger percentage, 18.1% of children are both stunted and underweight.
These conditions are a result of insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections. Stunting can cause irreversible physical and mental impairment and wasting can lead to death in children under 5.
The report finds the prevalence of malnutrition in children between 6 months and 5 years has declined, but that of acute malnutrition, or wasting, has marginally increased. It notes India now suffers from the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition.
In the last decade, it says the prevalence of low body mass index has decreased by more than one-third in both women and men. During the same period, it says overweight and obesity have increased from 13% to 21% among women and from 9% to 19% among men.