India’s child wasting rate 18.7% as per latest UN inter-agency estimates

India is the largest country in southern Asia, where half of all children with wasting in the world live

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 26 May 2023
Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE__

In 2020, some 18.7 per cent of Indian children were affected by wasting caused by poor nutrient intake and / or recurrent illnesses, the latest United Nations (UN) inter-agency estimates have noted.

India is the largest country in southern Asia, which is where half of all children with wasting in the world live. In 2022, an estimated 45 million children under five (6.8 per cent) were affected by wasting globally, of which 13.6 million (2.1 per cent) were suffering from severe wasting.

More than three quarters of all children with severe wasting live in Asia and another 22 per cent live in Africa.

Children suffering from wasting have weakened immunity, and are susceptible to long-term developmental delays and face an increased risk of death, particularly when wasting is severe.

Children suffering from severe wasting require early detection and timely treatment and care to survive, according to Levels and trends in child malnutrition: Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates (JME) by UNICEF / WHO / World Bank Group.

The Key findings of the 2023 edition also shows that India had a stunting rate of 31.7 per cent in 2022, down from 41.6 per cent in 2012, a decade ago.

Some 148.1 million, or 22.3 per cent of children under age five worldwide, were affected by stunting in 2022. Nearly all children affected lived in Asia (52 per cent of the global share) and Africa (43 per cent of the global share).

Stunting is the devastating result of poor nutrition in-utero and during early childhood. Children suffering from stunting may never attain their full possible height and their brains may never develop to their full cognitive potential.

Meanwhile, there are now 37 million children under five who are overweight globally, an increase of nearly four million since 2000, according to the document.

Childhood overweight occurs when children’s calorie intake from food and beverages exceeds their energy requirements.

This form of malnutrition is driven by failing food systems characterised by poor affordability as well as access to nutritious foods, the marketing of nutrient-poor ultra-processed foods, as well as inadequate opportunities for physical activity.

India had an overweight percentage of 2.8 per cent in 2022, compared to 2.2 per cent in 2012.

The UNICEF-WHO-WB JME inter-agency group updates the global and regional estimates in prevalence and numbers for each indicator every other year.

The Key Findings of the 2023 Edition includes global, regional, and country trends from 2000-2022 for stunting and overweight.

For wasting and severe wasting, country estimates are based on available primary data sources, global trends are presented for 2000-2022 and the latest estimates (2022) are at the regional level.

JME released in 2023 reveal insufficient progress to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets and UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goal target 2.2.

Only about a third of all countries are ‘on track’ to halve the number of children affected by stunting by 2030 and assessment of progress to date not being possible for about one quarter of countries.

Even fewer countries are expected to achieve the 2030 target of 3 per cent prevalence for overweight, with just one in six countries currently ‘on track’. An assessment of progress towards the wasting target is not possible for nearly half of countries, according to the report.

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