High levels of maternal and child under nutrition continue to plague India: UNICEF

New Delhi, Sept 30 (KMS): Although India claims to have made ‘impressive gains’ in economic and human development in recent decades and has transitioned from being a food-deficit nation to a self-sufficient food-producing country in the last 30 years. However, high levels of maternal and child under nutrition continue to plague the country.

Arjan De Wagt, Head, Nutrition, UNICEF India in an interview to Indian media said that large-scale surveys like the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) and National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS) show that about one-third of children under five years of age in India are stunted, a third of them are underweight and almost two out of ten children are nutritionally wasted; many of these children suffer from multiple anthropometric deficits. The CNNS also highlight the emerging problems of overweight, obesity and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

Arjan De Wagt said the government has put in place several programmes to address the triple burden of malnutrition however, with the spectre of COVID-19, there is a heightened risk of increasing malnutrition and parts of progress made in the past may get undone, he added.

“Broadly, we know that the impact of COVID-19 has adversely affected access to livelihoods. The containment measures to prevent the spread of the virus threatened livelihoods, resulted in price hikes due to reduced production of goods and services, and in disruption in supply chains for many families,” Arjan De Wagt added.

He said prior to COVID-19, Poshan Abhiyan had a strong potential to significantly reduce child malnutrition in India by 2030. However, the onslaught of COVID-19 risks are significantly reducing this potential progress that Poshan Abhiyan could have yielded by 2030, unless nutrition gets back on track again among the top priorities in leadership, financing, and service delivery at all levels, from Central and State governments down to the communities., he added.