38.7 Percent of Children Stunted in India: Wait, There is More To The Story

According to a new report by Global Nutrition Report (GNR), 38.7% of children in India suffering from stunting. Global prevalence is an astonishing 23.8%. India ranks 114 out of 132 countries (#1 being best).   According to UNICEF, 54 million children (under 5 years of age) in India suffer from stunting. UNICEF claims this reflects the, “cumulative effects of intergenerational poverty, poor maternal and early childhood nutrition, and repeated episodes of illness in childhood.” But wait, there is more to the story.

According to the USDA, “India’s export growth [of agricultural products] over the past decade has been the highest of any country.” This was accomplished in part by governmental intervention, especially in the form of wheat and rice subsidization, as well as support in the forms of irrigation, power and fertilizers for cotton and sugar production. According to FAOSTAT, India is the world’s second largest exporter of rice and wheat, let alone dry beans, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin and squash. You get the idea. But wait a minute. India ranks #1 in the world in the exportation of bananas, mangos, papaya, lemons, guava, jackfruit and pomegranates.

So what is India buying from the proceeds of its agricultural prominence? In a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India ranks as the world’s #1 global arms purchaser over the last 5 years.

Are we resolved to “governmental priorities?” Hold on. Apparently there are other preferences at work. In a working paper produced by the National Bureau of Economic Research…

India outperforms Sub-Saharan Africa on most indicators, from maternal mortality and life expectancy to poverty rates and educational achievement. But, the study found, children born in India are, on average, shorter than those born in Sub-Saharan Africa, unless they are first-born sons.”

“A son born at birth order 2 is taller in India than Africa if and only if he is the family’s eldest son,” the researchers added. “… a starkly unequal allocation of resources within families in India,” the paper said.

The economics suggest that governmental and personal preferences need to be adjusted… .

“The economic consequences represent losses of 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent.”

In fairness it should be noted that, “India almost doubled the rate of stunting reduction in the past 10 years compared with the previous decade. That is highly significant given that India is home to more than one-third of the world’s stunted children,” GNR said.

There is certainly more to the story… a starkly unequal allocation of resources for India’s 54 million India children suffering from stunting.

We heard You.

Mark Correnti


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