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Competing with Pakistan? India's 38% infants stunted, one of the highest: UNESCO

By Our Representative
A recent UNESCO report has noted that, despite “encouraging declines in stunting” among infants across the world under the age of five, the global reductions cannot “mask the reality that, in many countries, huge proportions of children still suffer from stunting”.
Thus, the report says, stunting – a term used to identify impaired growth and development that children experience due to poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation – is one of the highest in the world in India, and comparable with that of Pakistan, 38%.
Released in October this year, the report, titled “The State of the World’s Children 2019”, which seeks to make international comparisons, points out that these statistics paint “only a partial picture”, because “within countries, there can be major differences between regions.” Thus, it says, “In India almost half of children are stunted in the worst-affected state compared with a fifth in the least-affected state.”
The problem, suggests the report, does not end here. A comparison between the 20% richest and 20% poorest children shows a huge gap in stunting both in India and Pakistan. Thus, as against the average of 38%, as many as 51% of the poorest 20% and 22% of the richest 20% children of the pre-school age suffer from stunting in India. The situation is as bad in Pakistan (average 38%) is no better – with 56% and 22% respectively.
Ironically, the situation is much better among other Indian neighbours – thus, in Bangladesh, where on an average 36% suffer from stunting, the percentage among the poor is 49%, while it is 20% among the rich children. The respective percentage for China is 8% in all three categories; it is 36%, 48% and 18% in Nepal; 29%, 38% and 16% in Myanmar; and 17%, 25% and 12% in Sri Lanka.
51% of the poorest 20% and 22% of the richest 20% children of the pre-school age suffer from stunting in India
Even as stating that the annual number of under–5 deaths in India in 2018 was 882,000, highest in the world, the report says, this would mean a rate of 37 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is lower than only two countries of South Asia, Pakistan and Myanmar.
Thus, the under–5 mortality rate is 30 in Bangladesh, 32 in Nepal, and just seven in Sri Lanka and nine in China. India’s under-5 mortality is worse than that of Iraq (27 per 1,000 live births), Syria (17), and Rwanda (35). Pakistan’s under-5 mortality rate is 69, while it is 46 in Myanmar.
According to the report, such situation is there in India, even though, “national and state governments implemented a multi-pronged strategy to support breastfeeding, including large-scale programmes, effective capacity-building initiatives, strong partnerships, community-based action, and communications campaigns.”

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