Following nutrition month, the government is reviewing parameters that measure stunted growth in children. According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, India tops the list of stunted children, as it has one-third of the world’s stunted children. As per the report, 46.6 million children in India are stunted. The government is Indianising the parameters to match them with Indian anthropology.

Poshan Maah or Nutrition Month is observed in September, under the Poshan Abhiyan. This was launched by the Centre in 2018 to reduce low-birth weight, stunting and under-nutrition, and anemia among children, adolescent girls and women.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stunting is the impaired growth of children, which occurs mainly because of poor nutrition, repeated infections, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
  • According to an analysis of the country’s food and nutrition security released in June 2019, almost three in every five children in India will be stunted by 2022.
  • India must double its efforts to decrease the predicted percentage of 31.4 to 25 percent, the report added.
  • India also witnessed the slowest decline among the emerging countries, in the number of stunted children at a meagre one percent per year.

Stunting in early life — particularly in the first 1000 days from conception until the age of two, impaired growth has adverse functional consequences on the child. Some of those consequences include poor cognition and educational performance, low adult wages, lost productivity and, when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases in adult life.

38.4 Percent Children Under Five Years Stunted in India

According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), 38.4 percent of children under five years of age are stunted or low height-for-age. Moreover, another 21 percent of children account for ‘wasted’, which means they have low-weight-for-height, in India. This amounts to 25.5 million wasted children.

The survey also highlighted the pitiful situation of Bihar, where a whopping 48.3 percent of children under the age of five are stunted.

India also witnessed the slowest decline among the emerging countries, in the number of stunted children at a meagre one percent per year.

Different Parameters Needed For A Diverse Country Like India

In a diverse country like India, the officials say, the same parameters cannot be used for measuring the stunted growth as anthropology differs for children from state to state. “The government in collaboration with the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and World Health Organisation is looking into how these international parameters can be Indianised,” an officer told Deccan Herald.

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“The government is also working towards educating children and parents about the access of locally available nutrient-rich food that would help them understand what would benefit them in terms of nutrition,” the official added.

How Stunting Affects Humans

According to the WHO, “Stunting in early life — particularly in the first 1000 days from conception until the age of two, impaired growth has adverse functional consequences on the child. Some of those consequences include poor cognition and educational performance, low adult wages, lost productivity and, when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases in adult life.”

Early childhood needs to have a linear growth since it is a strong marker of healthy growth, and is associated with morbidity and mortality risk, non-communicable diseases in later life, and learning capacity and productivity. It is also closely linked with child development in several domains including cognitive, language and sensory-motor capacities.

Picture Credit: Deccan Herald

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