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Study Finds 42% of India’s Children Under 5 are Malnourished

Posted on January 10, 2012

Photo by Neil Palmer of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

A recent survey by the Naandi Foundation found that 42% of all Indian children younger than five are underweight, defined as having low weight for their age. Another 59% were found to be stunted, defined as having low height for age. The study surveyed 109,093 children in 3,360 villages in 9 states. The report also notes that 58% of mothers do not exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, which is important for preventing childhood malnutrition. Key factors in child malnutrition were family socioeconomic status and the educational status of mothers.

With recent droughts leading to famine in East Africa, child hunger is increasingly gaining international attention. Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières estimates that 146 million children under the age of five are underweight, with sixty million children considered wasted, meaning below the normal weight for height. Most of these children live in the Sahel, South Asia and the Horn of Africa. UNICEF notes that malnutrition is implicated in 40% of all child deaths under the age of five in developing countries. In addition to deaths from starvation, malnutrition can stunt children’s growth, reduce their immunity, and damage intellectual achievement.

In 2010, MSF launched the Starved for Attention campaign to draw attention to the issue of widespread child malnutrition and the importance of providing malnourished children with nutritionally adequate foods. According to MSF most food aid provided to malnourished people in crises is a corn-soy blend that does not adequately meet the nutritional needs of growing children.

Watch a video on Starved for Attention’s work in India.

Page last modified: March 13, 2014