Context: The Global Nutrition Report 2020, an independently produced annual stock-take of the state of the world’s nutrition was released recently. 

India specific finding of the report:

  • India is among 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly in 2012, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2020  
  • It also identified India as the country with the highest rates of domestic inequalities in malnutrition.
  • Underweight children:
    • Between 2000 and 2016, rates of underweight have decreased from 66.0% to 58.1% for boys and 54.2% to 50.1% in girls. 
    • But this is still high compared to the average of 35.6% for boys and 31.8% for girls in Asia.
  • Stunting and wasting
    • 37.9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively.
  • Anemia:
    • One in two women of reproductive age is anaemic.
  • Overweight and obesity
    • The rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.

6 targets set by the World Health Assembly

  • In 2012, the World Health Assembly identified six nutrition targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition to be met by 2025. 
  • The targets are as follows
    • 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 a 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%.

More about stunting level in India

  • India has been identified as among the three worst countries, along with Nigeria and Indonesia, for steep within-country disparities on stunting.
  • State-wise disparities:
    • Stunting level in states such as Uttar Pradesh was found out to be over 40% 
  • Income wise disparities:
    • Stunting level rate among individuals in the lowest income group is more than double those in the highest income group at 22.0% and 50.7%, respectively. 
  • Rural-Urban Disparities:
    • Stunting prevalence is 10.1% higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. 
  • Gender disparities:
    • In the case of overweight and obesity, there are nearly double as many obese adult females than there are males (5.1% compared to 2.7%).

Link between malnutrition and inequity

  • The Global Nutrition Report 2020  emphasises on the link between malnutrition and different forms of inequity, such as those based on geographic location, age, gender, ethnicity, education and wealth malnutrition in all its forms. 
  • Report says that “Inequity is a cause of malnutrition both under-nutrition and overweight, obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. Inequities in food and health systems exacerbate inequalities in nutrition outcomes that in turn can lead to more inequity, perpetuating a vicious cycle”.

We must learn from the challenges posed by Covid-19 and turn them into opportunities to accelerate actions needed to address inequities across malnutrition in all its forms, as called for by the 2020 Global Nutrition Report.

Stunting and wasting

  • Stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections. 
    • Stunting generally occurs before age two, and effects are largely irreversible. 
  • Wasting, or low weight for height, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. 
    • It is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease.


About World Health Assembly

  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. 
  • It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. 
  • The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to 
    • determine the policies of the Organization, 
    • appoint the Director-General, 
    • supervise financial policies, and review and 
    • approve the proposed programme budget. 
  • The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.


Image Source: TH