9th February, 2012 MUMBAI: Malnutrition in India is a problem with multiple dimensions that urgently needs focused attention at both, the macro and the micro level. In this context, local communities and civil society can play an important role by ensuring that all children under five are regularly weighed, and that pregnant and lactating mothers are ensured adequate nutrition and care, says CRY – Child Rights and You.

In the Gudisahi hamlet of Golabandha Panchayat, Orissa, seven-year-old Aroti Nayak was suffering from severe grade four malnutrition. Her father is a daily-wage labourer, struggling to provide two square meals for his family of six.  The nearest aanganwadi – where free supplementary nutrition for children is available – is one kilometre away. During the monsoons, flooding of the river nearby makes it impossible to reach.  CRY partner International Noble work Development and Investigation Association (INDIA) works in the area, and began to monitor, along with the local aaganwadi worker, the height and weight of children in the village. Aroti’s condition was discovered, and she was immediately registered under the Child Development Project Officer (CPDO) as a malnourished child.  Today, Aroti is receiving nutritional supplementary food, and her growth is being regularly monitored.

According to a National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) report on Health and Nutrition related data, 48% of children in India are underweight, ranging from 20% of the child population (under-5) in Sikkim to a whopping 60% in Madhya Pradesh!  One out of every five children under five years is wasted (low weight for height) while seven out of every 10 children aged 6-59 months are anaemic.

Puja Marwaha, CEO CRY – Child Rights and You says, “The effects of malnutrition are irreversible as it prevents children from growing to their full potential. Its effects are inter-generational – a malnourished child suffers with diminished cognitive development, poor school performance and physical development, thus impacting his or her productivity as an adult, and for women giving birth to low birth weight babies. This cycle contributes to the enormity and longevity of the situation. We cannot wait to act – we must fight under nourishment, little by little.”

Children’s health in India – Some Hard Facts:

  • More than half of all deaths before age 5 in India are related to malnutrition.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar more than 50% children are underweight.
  • More than 4 out of every 10 children in Mumbai, Meerut and Delhi are stunted.
  • Over 40% of children in are Meghalaya, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa are underweight.
  • 21.5% children born in India are with low birth weight.
  • None of the states in India provides full immunization to a child in the age of 12-23 months. The all-India average for immunization is quite low at 43.5%.
  • In the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh 70-80% pregnant women did not receive 3 ANC check ups.

Source: Health and Nutrition related data – NFHS-3 Report

Aroti was lucky to have a functioning aanganwadi and PHC in the area – thousands of eligible villages across the country still do not have functioning aanganwadis or PHCs. In the hilly village of Laxmipuram in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district, 12-year-old Nagraj has never seen an aanganwadi. He lives in a community of landless labourers who inhabit the hilly terrains of forest reserves. The children in his village suffer from want of nutritious food, immunisation and pre-primary education. The situation is no different in 20 other villages in the area.

On an average, 74 children out of 1000 do not live to see their 5th birthday. States like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand have an even higher under-5 mortality rate of 90 per 1000. More than a quarter of the babies born in Bihar, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tripura are low in birth weight, while Haryana leads the list with 32.7% of it’s child population weighing in below par. Contrary to common perception, metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi have not escaped the grasp of malnutrition, where more than four out of every 10 children are stunted.

Poor antenatal care for mothers contributes to the number of wasted and stunted children, making it increasingly difficult for them to escape the clutches of malnourishment. Even though the guidelines on antenatal care by the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) recommend a minimum of three checkups, no state in India could provide all three recommended check ups to expectant mothers. In the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, 70-80% pregnant women did not receive the three antenatal check ups.

Ms. Marwaha calls attention to the urgency of addressing the situation saying, “There is an urgent need for a holistic strategy that involves the tracking of every pregnant woman and child up until the child completes two years of age, as well as good service delivery on government schemes for nutrition and healthcare. The importance of the community members in ensuring both – the regular weigh-ins of children and mothers, and effectively monitoring the functioning of the local aanganwadis and PHCs will go a long way in the fight against under nourishment”.

For more information please contact CRY at: or call 022 23063651.

Note to the Editor: CRY – Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its partners have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 20 Lakh underprivileged children. For more information please visit us at