'India has highest number of underweight children'


India's higher economic growth has not translated into a superior nutritional status for the country's women and children, as the country houses the highest number of underweight children globally, the World Bank has said.

"The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world," the bank said in its publication, 'The World Bank in India'.

"Despite experiencing unprecedented economic growth during the last decade, South Asia, including India, has the highest rates of malnutrition and the largest numbers of undernourished in the world," it said.

Citing estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it said about 49 per cent of the world's underweight children, 34 per cent of the world's stunted children and 46 per cent of the world's wasted children, live in India.

The prevalence of malnutrition varies across states, demographic and socio-economic groups, with scheduled tribes and scheduled castes ranking highest among all.

"Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have the highest malnutrition rates," it said, adding that even in urban areas, a third of the children are underweight.

"Over the past decade, progress in reducing malnutrition in India has been limited; in fact anaemia has increased," it said.

While poverty is often the underlying cause of malnutrition in children, the superior economic growth experienced by South Asian countries compared to those in Sub-Saharan Africa, has not translated into superior nutritional status for the South Asian child.

"Income inequality could help explain what average economic growth figures may conceal, yet inequality is not significantly worse in South Asia than in Africa," the Bank said.

Besides, low birth in children, undernourishment and anaemia in Indian women and poor household hygiene are some of the issues that need to be dealt with, the World Bank said.

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