With 51% of women between 15-49 suffering anaemia, India faces serious nutrition burden

The report also states that India is falling short on childhood nutrition, with 38% children suffering from stunting and 21% affected by wasting.
With 51% of women between 15-49 suffering anaemia, India faces serious nutrition burden
With 51% of women between 15-49 suffering anaemia, India faces serious nutrition burden
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India is facing a serious problem of malnutrition, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2017 released on November 3.

Particularly worrying is the fact that India has the highest number of anaemic women between the ages of 15 and 49 years. China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia occupy the following places in the list. Globally, anaemia affects a whopping 614 million women in that age bracket.

The report calls attention to the serious crisis facing a majority of countries in the world, with 88% of countries being found to have a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition (childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age, and/or overweight in adult women).

How India fared on various indicators

The report says that while India has made some headway in addressing the problem of under-five stunting, it has lagged in tackling anaemia among women and is off-the-mark when it comes to targets for reducing adult obesity and diabetes.

The report also states that in India:

  • 38% of children (totaling 47,505) under the age of five years were affected by stunting (children being short because of a lack of nutrition).
  • 21% of children (25,979) under five were affected by wasting (low weight for a certain height).
  • The under-5 mortality rate has decreased from 57% in 2011 to 48% in 2015
  • 16% of Indian adult men are overweight, and 22% adult women
  • While 27% men and 25% women have raised blood pressure, 9% men and 8% women have raised cholesterol and 26% men and 30% women have raised blood glucose.


One of the alarm bells the report sounds has to do with the growing spread of obesity, not only in high-income countries, but also low and middle-income countries. Worldwide, 2 billion adults were found to be overweight or obese.

“The problem affects more women than men in all the world’s regions, reflecting a wider global gender disparity,” the report states. 15% of women were found to be obese globally, compared to 11% of men. Similarly 39% of women were found to be overweight, as against 38% of men.

At this rate, the probability of meeting the internationally agreed targets to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025 would be less than 1%, the GNR noted.

Children’s nutrition

The GNR also reports worrying findings on childhood malnutrition. Some countries have managed to reduce the number of children under five who are chronically or acutely undernourished (stunted and wasted). However, the global progress is far from the correct pace to meet internationally collated nutrition targets, including the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that stipulates that all forms of malnutrition should be ended by 2030.

The report states that childhood stunting affects 38% of children under the age of five, totaling up to 155 million children worldwide. Further, 21% of children under five (52 million children) were found to be "wasted" or "severely wasted".

Why nutrition matters for achieving SDGs

At the global level, nutrition is recognised as a key factor in enabling sustainable development, according to Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the GNR's Independent Expert Group and Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University of London.

"We will not achieve any of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030 unless there is a critical change in our response to malnutrition in all its forms, and action throughout the goals to tackle the many causes of malnutrition," Corinna said.

The GNR-2017 urges that nutrition should be at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and combat climate change.

"A well-nourished child is one-third more likely to escape poverty, learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies," said Jessica Fanzo, GNR co-chair and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food and Agriculture Policy and Ethics at John Hopkins University.

One of the major obstacles the report points to is the insufficient funding that nutrition projects around the world receive. Donor funding for nutrition increased by just 2% in 2015 to $867 million, representing a slight fall in the overall percentage of global aid. However, experts estimate that adequately tackling childhood stunting, wasting and anaemia, and increase breastfeeding rates requires that donor funding should be tripled to $70 billion over 10 years.

Hearteningly, the Global Nutrition Summit 2017 saw new commitments of billions of dollars to achieve nutrition targets, including a pledge of $50 million for five years by the Tata Trusts, Mumbai.

(with IANS inputs)

(Photo courtesy Simon Williams/Ekta Parishad via Wikimedia Commons)

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