Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
The term malnutrition covers 2 broad groups of conditions. One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals). The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).
Consequences of Malnutrition:
Malnutrition affects people in every country. Around 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight, while 462 million are underweight. An estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years are overweight or obese, while some 159 million are stunted and 50 million are wasted.
Many families cannot afford or access enough nutritious foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, meat and milk, while foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt are cheaper and more readily available, leading to a rapid rise in the number of children and adults who are overweight and obese, in poor as well as rich countries.
Malnutrition in India:
“More than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in India. Among these, half of the children under three years old are underweight and a third of wealthiest children are over-nutriented.” said the joint study by Assocham and EY. The report found that towards the end of 2015, 40% (i.e. 50.8 million) of the Indian children were undernourished.
About 37% of under-five children are underweight, 39% are stunted, 21% are wasted and 8% are severely acutely malnourished.
Only about 10 per cent children under the age 6-23 months are receiving an adequate diet.
In the age bracket of 1-5 years, the prevalence of underweight children ranged from 42% in Jharkhand, followed by Bihar, MP and UP with 37%, 36% and 34.1% respectively, to 14.1% in Manipur. The prevalence of stunting ranged from 50.4% in UP to 19.4% in Kerala according to the report.
India is ranked as the third most obese nation of the world after US and China and is called the diabetes capital of the world, with about 69.2 million people living with it as per the 2015 data by WHO.
One of the major causes for malnutrition in India is economic inequality. Due to the low social status of some population groups, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity.
It is important to understand that malnutrition derives not just from a lack of food but from a diverse set of interlinked processes linking health, care, education, sanitation and hygiene, access to resources, women’s empowerment and more.
Nutrition is a core pillar of human development and concrete, large-scale programming not only can reduce the burden of undernutrition and deprivation in countries but also can advance the progress of nations.