Acute Malnutrition


    In Context

    • Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) in its press brief stated that acute malnutrition is risking 30 million children’s lives.

    More about the news

    • Global state of Malnutrition:
      • According to WHO, Currently, more than 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries suffer from wasting — or acute malnutrition.
      • 8 million of these children are severely wasted, the deadliest form of undernutrition.
    • Causes:
      • Conflict, climate shocks, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and rising living costs are leaving increasing numbers of children acutely malnourished. 
      • Meanwhile, critical health, nutrition and other life-saving services are becoming less accessible.
    • Impacts:
      • The global food crisis is also a health crisis, and a vicious cycle: malnutrition leads to disease, and disease leads to malnutrition.
      • Acute malnutrition is a major threat to children’s lives and their long-term health and development, the impacts of which are felt by individuals, their communities and their countries, the WHO added.      

    UN’s response: Global Action Plan on Child Wasting

    • Action Plan:
      • In response to the WHO’s report, five UN agencies subsuming WHO are calling for accelerated progress on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting. 
    • Agencies:
      • These agencies are 
        • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 
        • UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 
        • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 
        • World Food Programme (WFP) and 
        • World Health Organization (WHO).  
    • Aim:
      • The action plan aims to prevent, detect and treat acute malnutrition among children in the worst-affected countries: 
        • Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
    • Need of support, action & investment:
      • The agencies have called for decisive and timely action to prevent this crisis from becoming a tragedy for the world’s most vulnerable children. 
      • All agencies urged greater investment in support of a coordinated UN response that will meet the unprecedented needs of this growing crisis before it is too late.


    • About:
      • It refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. 
      • It is a chronic problem and a longstanding challenge for the public administration of India.
    • The term malnutrition addresses 3 broad groups of conditions:
      • Undernutrition:
        • It includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age)
        • Together, the stunted and wasted children are considered to be underweight, indicating a lack of proper nutritional intake and inadequate care post-childbirth.
      • Micronutrient-related malnutrition
        • It includes micronutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess; and
      • Overweight: 
        • It includes obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).

    Government initiatives to address Malnutrition

    • Poshan Abhiyan:
      • It is a multi-ministerial convergence mission with the vision to ensure the attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.
      • The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) is implementing POSHAN Abhiyaan.
    • Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) 2.0 scheme: 
      • It now includes the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, which seeks to work with adolescent girls, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children below three.
    • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS):
      • It represents one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood care and development.
      • The beneficiaries under the Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers
      • The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the implementing agency.
    • Mid-Day Meal Scheme:
      • The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme in India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children
      • It covers all school students studying in Classes 1 to 8 of government schools, government-aided schools, special training centres, including madrasas supported under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.
    • National Food Security Mission:
      • It was launched in 2007-08 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
      • It focuses on the sustainable increase in the production of targeted crops through area expansion and productivity enhancement.
    • National Nutrition Mission:
      • It is the government’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
      • Aim: 
        • To reduce stunting and wasting by 2 percent per year (total 6 per cent until 2022) among children and anemia by 3 percent per year (total 9 per cent until 2022) among children, adolescent girls and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
      • The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal ministry for implementation.

    Way ahead

    • It is being speculated that this situation is likely to deteriorate even further in 2023.
    • Urgent support is needed now in the hardest-hit countries to protect children’s lives and health, including ensuring critical access to healthy foods and nutrition services, especially for women and children.
    • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing nutrition investments can increase the impact of available resources on malnutrition. 
    • Policy initiatives are urgently needed to transform food systems, increase intake of health-promoting foods, and reduce animal-based foods, to ensure diets are healthy and sustainable for people and the planet.

    Source: DTE