India bags top spot in child wasting rate: Global Hunger Index

The rate increased to 20.8 per cent among children under five this year

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Wednesday 16 October 2019
Wasting is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. Photo: Getty Images

India bagged the top spot in child wasting rate in the world with an increase of 4.3 percentage points in nine years, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released on October 15, 2019.  Around 90 per cent of children aged between 6 and 23 months in the country don’t even get minimum required food, added the report.

This points at a serious food crisis since wasting is “a strong predictor of mortality among children under five and is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease,” according to United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).

Wasting among children under five rose to 20.8 per cent in 2019 from 16.5 per cent in 2010, revealed the GHI. The rate of wasting — low weight for height — in 24 developing countries is 10 per cent or more, according to Unicef.

The GHI calculated hunger level and undernutrition worldwide by considering four indicators — undernourishment, child wasting, child mortality and child stunting.

India ranked 102 on the index among 117 qualifying countries with a score of 30.3. Even North Korea, Niger, Cameroon fared better than India.  Neighboring countries too bagged better spots — Sri Lanka (66), Nepal (73), Pakistan (94) and Bangladesh (88).

India’s hunger indicators have a huge impact on the total indicators of the region owing to its large population, according to the index.

When it comes to stunting in children under five, the country saw a dip, but it’s still high — 37.9 per cent in 2019 from 42 per cent in 2010. The current rate is very high in terms of public health significance, added the GHI.

The index also commented on the state of open defecation in the country. Despite the Swachh Bharat campaign, open defecation is still practiced in India, found the index. It jeopardises the population’s health and severely impacts children’s growth and their ability to absorb nutrients, it added.

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