India needs to better feed its children: UNICEF
NEW DELHI: Millions of children across India are malnourished and anaemic despite the country’s economic boom, and the rising Asian power must feed its young population better, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.
Early findings of a survey by the Indian health ministry, backed by UNICEF, found the number of undernourished children below the age of three had actually increased in some states despite a rise in per capita income and robust economic growth.
Even in states where malnutrition rates have fallen, the number of infants who are anaemic has risen, indicating the poor quality of food available and raising concern about the future of millions of children.
“The country which provides software for the world should be able to tackle its own malnutrition problem,” said Werner Schultink, the nutrition and child development chief for UNICEF in India.
“It’s a disappointing situation ... whether it is worrying, I would say yes, very much so,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Schultink said that undernourishment would hurt the mental growth of children as well as their future school performance and have a long-term impact on the productiveness of adults, adversely affecting India’s rapid economic progress.
“It is, therefore, of great importance for the overall development capacity of a nation.” India, however, had “come a long way” from the 1970s when malnutrition among children was around 70 percent. Indian officials were working to tackle the current problem, Schultink said, adding: “This needs to be taken further.”
Poor nutrition: Despite GDP growth at over eight percent in the past three years and at six percent or more since the early 1990s, National Family Health Survey findings have shown that in Gujarat, one of India’s richest and most industrialised states, the percentage of underweight children had risen to 47 percent from 45 percent seven years ago.
It revealed that in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 170 million people, the percentage of anaemic children under three had risen to 85 percent from 74 percent.
This is despite India running a huge midday meal scheme for children, with 120 million signed up to receive one hot, nutritious meal free on every school day. reuters