Malnutrition in India


    In News

    • Recently, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development informed the Rajya Sabha that the Union government aims to reduce stunting and under-nutrition (underweight prevalence) among children under 6 years by 2% per annum.


    • According to findings of the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), nutrition indicators for children under 5 have improved over NFHS-4 (2015-16).
      • Stunting has reduced from 38.4% to 35.5%, wasting from 21.0% to 19.3% and underweight prevalence is down from 35.8% to 32.1%. 
      • Women (15-49 years) whose BMI is below normal has reduced from 22.9% in NFHS-4 to 18.7% in NFHS-5. 
    • Statewise Data: 
      • Stunting: 
        • Meghalaya has the highest number of stunted children (46.5%), followed by Bihar (42.9%). 
        • Assam, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have stunted children higher than the national average of 35.5%.
        • Puducherry and Sikkim have the lowest percentage of stunted children.
      • Wasted Children: 
        • Maharashtra has 25.6% wasted children (weight for height) — the highest — followed by Gujarat (25.1%).
        • Assam, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Karnataka and West Bengal have a higher percentage of wasted children than the national average of 19.3%.
      • Underweight: 
        • Bihar has the highest number of underweight children (41%), followed by Gujarat (39.7%), and Jharkhand at (39.4%).
        • Assam, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have a higher percentage of underweight children than the national average of 32.1%.
      • Below normal BMI:
        • The NFHS-5 data shows that Jharkhand has the highest percentage of women, between 15 and 49 years, who have a below-normal Body Mass Index (BMI). More than 26% Jharkhand women have below-normal BMI, the national average being 18.5%.
          • Body Mass Index is a value derived from mass and height of a person, and an indicator of under-nutrition. 
      • Undernourished: 
        • Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha also have high percentages of undernourished women.


    • About: 
      • Malnutrition, especially that affecting young children, is one of the principal public health problems in the developing world like India. 
      • It causes about half of child deaths and is a major cause of morbidity in children. 
      • It has medical and social disorder rooted in poverty and discrimination. 
      • Effects of malnutrition in early childhood can be devastating and permanent. 
    • Ecology of under nutrition:
      • Poverty: Because of low purchasing power, the poor cannot afford to buy the desired amount and desired quality of food for the family. This starts a vicious cycle of poverty, undernutrition, diminished work capacity, low earning and poverty
      • Feeding habits: Lack of awareness of nutritional qualities of food, irrational beliefs about food, inappropriate child rearing and feeding habits all lead to undernutrition in the family.
      • Infections: Infections like malaria and measles or recurrent attacks of diarrhoea may precipitate acute malnutrition and aggravate the existing nutritional deficit.
    • Socio-cultural factors: 
      • Inequitable distribution of food: In most of the poor households, women and preschool children especially girls receive less food than the economically active male members
      • Poor quality of housing, sanitation and water supply: These contribute to ill health and infections thus Contributing to malnutrition.
      • Large families: Rapid succession of pregnancies adversely affects the nutritional status of the mother. In large families per capita availability of food is also less.

    Image Courtesy: Vikaspedia 

    Measures Taken to Tackle Malnutrition

    • Poshan Abhiyan
      • It was approved in 2017.
      • 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.
    • Integrated Child Development Services
      • It was launched on 2nd October 1975 and 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
      • Ministry of Women and Child Development is the implementing agency
    • Matritva Sahyog Yojana
      • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) is a Conditional Maternity Benefit (CMB) Scheme launched in 2010.
      • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development as the centrally sponsored scheme.
      • It was launched for pregnant and lactating women to improve their health and nutrition status to better-enable the environment by providing cash incentives to pregnant and nursing mothers.
    • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
      • The centrally sponsored scheme was launched in 2017.
      • Rs. 6,000 is transferred directly to the bank accounts of pregnant women and lactating mothers for availing better facilities for their delivery to compensate for wage loss and is eligible for the first child of the family.
      • Implementation of the scheme is closely monitored by the central and state governments through the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana-Common Application Software (PMMVY-CAS).
    • 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 was based on the recommendations of the agriculture sub-committee of the National Development Council (NDC).
      • 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 anaemia 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.
    • National Nutrition Strategy
      • The Strategy aims to reduce all forms of malnutrition by 2030, with a focus on the most vulnerable and critical age groups.
      • The Strategy also aims to assist in achieving the targets identified as part of the Sustainable Development Goals related to nutrition and health.


    • Despite the decrease, India has one of the highest burdens of malnutrition in the world.
    • The Supplementary Nutrition Programme under Anganwadi Services and POSHAN Abhiyaan have been converged to form the ‘Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0’ (Mission Poshan 2.0), which seeks to address the challenges of malnutrition in children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. Its implementation should be expedited.

    Source: IE