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India’s Child Wasting

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: DTE


Context: According to the latest UN inter-agency estimates, India has the highest child-wasting rate globally, with over 18% of Indian children affected by wasting in 2020.


Other findings:

  • India had a stunting rate of 31.7 per cent in 2022, down from 41.6 per cent in 2012
  • India had an overweight percentage of 2.8 per cent in 2022, compared to 2.2 per cent in 2012.
  • India is the largest country in southern Asia, where half of all children with wasting in the world live
  • More than three-quarters of all children with severe wasting live in Asia
  • There is insufficient progress to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets and UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goal target 2.2.


Comparison of stunting, wasting, and malnutrition:

Stunting Wasting Malnutrition
Definition Low height-for-age due to chronic or recurrent undernutrition Low weight-for-height due to recent and severe weight loss Deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients, or impaired utilization
Causes Poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, inappropriate feeding and care in early life Inadequate food intake and/or frequent illnesses Inadequate nutrition, poor dietary diversity, poverty, food insecurity
Impacts Physical and cognitive developmental delays Increased risk of mortality, weakened immunity Impaired growth and development, weakened immunity, increased susceptibility to diseases
Prevalence Globally, over 22% of children under 5 were affected by stunting in 2022 (148.1 million children) Globally, around 7% of children under 5 were affected by wasting in 2022 (45 million children) The double burden of malnutrition affects many countries, with undernutrition and overweight/obesity coexisting
Long-term consequences Stunting can lead to permanent physical and cognitive impairments, reduced productivity in adulthood Severe wasting without timely treatment can result in death Malnutrition can have long-term health consequences, including increased risk of noncommunicable diseases
Interventions Improving maternal health and nutrition, promoting breastfeeding, access to nutritious food, improving sanitation and hygiene, health education Timely detection and treatment, therapeutic feeding, access to healthcare services Promoting balanced and nutritious diets, improving food security, and addressing socioeconomic factors
World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets In 2012, the World Health Assembly identified six nutrition targets to be met by 2025. These are: Reduce stunting by 40% in children under 5; Reduce the prevalence of anaemia by 50% among women in the age group of 19-49 years; Ensure 30% reduction in low-birth-weight; Ensure no increase in childhood overweight; Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50%; Reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%.