1. Intro on Indian malnutrition.
  2. Elaborately depict the Indian malnutrition scenario with specific data.
  3. Conclusion with way forward.

Malnutrition affects human capital and therefore, needs immediate intervention. In the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, India has relegated to 120 in ranking amongst 193 countries and lags in challenges concerning zero hunger, health, safe drinking water, and gender equality.

The abysmal picture of India : The report also points to a 7% rise in poverty, reversed progress in health due to child malnutrition and thereby, shortened life-expectancy. India is off-track on three of the global maternal, infant and young children nutrition (MIYCN) targets to address stunting, wasting, anaemia, low birth-weight, breastfeeding and childhood obesity. Acc. to 2021 Global Hunger Index, India ranked 101 out of 116 countries – falling in the serious hunger category. India has 27.9% intensity and 45.9% incidence of multi-dimensional poverty with large numbers facing huge deficiencies in health, nutrition, education and living standards. Malnutrition is the primary cause of India’s economic fallout.

The data shows unacceptably high incidence of child malnutrition – 35.5% stunted and 32.1% underweight. According to NFHS-5 data, the stunting in rural areas is more (37.3%) compared to urban areas (30.1%), owing to poor socio-economic situation.


In terms of geographical regions, Meghalaya (46.5%), Bihar (42.9%), Uttar Pradesh (39.7%), and Jharkhand (39.6%) have very high stunting rates, while the lowest rates are in Sikkim (22.3%) and Pondicherry (20%). While nutrition has improved across all states, the inter-state variabilities remain high. The two states that had lowest stunting rates in NFHS-4 but showed significant rise in NFHS-5 are Goa (20.1 to 25.8%) and Kerala (19.7% to 23.4%).

India’s rate of early breastfeeding within an hour of birth is 41.8%, i.e., only 2 out of 5 women are able to begin breastfeeding. Only 63.7% women exclusively breastfeed infants for 6 months and complementary feeding rates after 6 months is 45.9%. So, an alarmingly low 11.3% (1 in 10) children receive a minimum acceptable diet. In this context, timely nutritional interventions of breastfeeding, age-appropriate complementary feeding, full immunization and Vit-A supplements have given effective outcomes.

India continues to struggle with high rates of malnutrition despite 4-decades of ICDS programme, the mid-day meal scheme (1995), and more recent POSHAN Abhiyan (2018). The challenge to address malnutrition calls for holistic inter-sectoral strategy by converging health & nutrition programmes until a child’s 5-year age. Also, social safety nets can empower women by enabling them to control over assets and participate in household decision-making. India’s PDS and maternal cash transfer schemes have been beneficial in providing subsidized nutritional needs to the vulnerable populations. Lastly, effective monitoring & implementation is necessary to address the menace of malnutrition.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 30, 2022