India faces serious nutrition challenge: report

Mumbai: India faces a serious nutrition-related challenge, stemming from both under-nutrition and obesity, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2017.

The latest figures show that 38% of children under five are affected by stunting and 21% are defined as "wasted" or "severely wasted", meaning they do not weigh enough for their height. Over half of women who are in reproductive age group (51%) suffer from anaemia; and more than one in five (22%) of adult women are overweight.

While the country has shown some progress in addressing under-5 stunting, it has made no progress or presents worse outcomes in the percentage of reproductive-age women with anaemia, and is off course in terms of reaching targets for reducing adult obesity and diabetes.

"The Indian government is recognising that the country cannot afford inaction on nutrition but the road ahead is going to be long. The Global Nutrition Report highlights that the double burden of under-nutrition and obesity needs to be tackled as part of India's national nutrition strategy. For under-nutrition, especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap," said Purnima Menon, independent expert group on the Global Nutrition Report, and Senior Research Fellow at the Delhi-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)'s South Asia Office.

At the international level, nutrition is recognised as key in enabling sustainable development. Corinna Hawkes, Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report's Independent Expert Group and Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University London, said: "We will not achieve any of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline unless there is a critical step change in our response to malnutrition in all its forms. Equally, we need action throughout the goals to tackle the many causes of malnutrition."

The Global Nutrition Report 2017 - an independently produced annual stock-take of the state of the world's nutrition - calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change.

"We know that a well-nourished child is one-third more likely to escape poverty," said Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food and Agriculture Policy & Ethics at Johns Hopkins University and Global Nutrition Report Co-Chair. "They will learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies. Good nutrition provides the brainpower, the 'grey matter infrastructure' to build the economies of the future."

The report found the vast majority (88%) of countries studied face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition. It highlights the damaging impact this burden is having on broader global development efforts. The report also found that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with 2 billion of the world's 7 billion people now overweight or obese and a less than 1% chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025.

In India, 16% of adult men and 22% of adult women are overweight.

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