Overview of Malnutrition Situation in India
The data below are from the National Family Healthy Survey (NFHS-3 ) 2005-2006 India National Reports
Chapter 10 - Nutrition and Anaemia 48 pages 608kb
Nutritional Status of Adults 569 kb
Nutritional Status of Children 921 kb
Malnutrition and Anaemia Rates Are High among Children
- 38.4% of children under age three are stunted, that is too short for their age and 46% are underweight that is too thin for their age. Both indicators have slightly improved from 1998-99.
- Wasting, defined as an abnormally low weight for the child's height affects 19% of children under age three with a slight
deterioration from 1998-99.
- Overall, girls and boys are about equally likely to be undernourished. Under-nutrition is higher in rural areas and is strongly correlated with the level of maternal education showing a two-fold difference between non-educated mothers and 10-year and above educated mothers. This may be linked to a stark difference in access to a nutritious diet and complementary feeding at 6-9 months.
- Most children under age three are anemic (79.2%). The prevalence is slightly higher in rural areas and among non-educated mothers. High prevalence of anaemia may be linked to poor variety of diet, poor hygienic conditions and limited access to iron supplementation.
Improvements Needed in Infant and Child Feeding and Micronutrient Intake
- While breastfeeding is nearly universal in India, less than half of children (46%) are fed only breast milk for the first 6 months, as recommended. Exclusive breastfeeding is slightly higher among the non-educated mothers and in rural areas. Work conditions and access to breast milk substitutes may impact the feeding pattern among urban and better educated mothers.
- Only 23.4% of children are breastfed within one hour of birth and the prevalence is significantly lower among the non-educated mothers and in rural areas. However, there has been an overall improvement from 9.5% in 1992-93 and 16% in 1998-99.
- Only 55.8% of children aged 6-9 months receive solid or semisolid food and breast milk. Although the percentage is significantly lower among non-educated mothers and in rural areas, the prevalence in urban areas and among well-educated mothers is still less than 70% making complementary feeding a high-priority to be addressed.
- Only 44 percent of breastfeeding children 6-23 months are fed at least the minimum recommended number of times per day (twice a day for children 6-8 months and three times for children 9-23 months) and only 36 percent are given food from at least 3 food groups, as recommended to ensure adequate diversity in their diet.
- Just 25% of children age 6-35 months received vitamin A supplements in the six months before the survey. The Government of India recommends twice yearly vitamin A supplements for children age 6-59 months.
A significant percentage of Women and Men Are Either Too Thin or Too Fat
- Malnutrition and anaemia are common among Indian adults. Both malnutrition and anaemia have increased among women since 1998-99.
- 33% of married women and 28% of men are too thin, according to the body mass index (BMI), an indicator derived from height and weight measurements. Underweight is most common among the poor, the rural population, adults who have no education and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
- Overweight and obesity, the other side of malnutrition, is a growing problem in India, affecting almost 15% of women and 12% of men. Overweight and obesity are most common in urban areas, in wealthier households, and among older adults, Sikhs and those with more education.
Anaemia Is Widespread
- 56.2% of women and 24.3% of men suffer from anaemia, and have lower than normal levels of blood haemoglobin. Anaemia has increased in ever-married women from 1998-99. Among pregnant women, anaemia has increased from 50% to almost 58%.
- Only 22.3% of pregnant women consume Iron and Folic Acid supplementation for 90 days and the percentage is less than 10% among the non-educated women compared to 50% among the well-educated. Also the disparity between rural and urban areas is significant (18% and 34.5% respectively)
Many Households Are Vulnerable to Iodine Deficiency
- Iodine deficiency, which can lead to mental retardation, goitre, and complications of pregnancy, is easily prevented by using salt fortified with iodine. Only 51 percent of Indian households use adequately iodized salt, however.
2005-2006 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) India Fact Sheet
14 September, 2019