Lack of focus on women’s well-being, education is leading to stunted growth in India’s children
- India’s has the disturbing distinction of having the highest number of stunted children.
- The government has launched a scheme to combat undernutrition in the country.
- But the scheme must provide for women’s well-being, says a study.
Stunted children are quick to contract illnesses and disease and easily succumb to them. It is also associated with an underdeveloped brain that leads to reduced mental ability and thereby resulting in a domino effect of poor learning capacity, poor performance in school, lower earnings and they are eventually more susceptible to chronic nutrition-related diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
A new study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) centred around understanding the geographical burden of stunting in India reveals that for the country to effectively combat stunting, the government must focus on women’s well-being and education. Low body mass index (19%) and education (12%) in women contributed to almost three-fourths of the differences in childhood stunting between low and high burden in Indian districts.
Other factors contributing to this difference include adequate diet for children (9%), assets (7%), open defecation (7%), age at marriage (7%), antenatal care (6%), and household size (5%).
Source: Understanding the geographical burden of stunting in India: A regression-decomposition analysis of district-level data from the 2015–16; Authors: Purnima Menon,
In order to address the problem of malnutrition, the government has launched a scheme called POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) Abhiyan or
This study aims to help the government prioritise actions to combat undernutrition by improving the socioeconomic, nutritional and health status of girls and women. The study suggests that the POSHAN mission will work if the government applies a district-wise targeted method to improve in women’s health, women’s education and women’s access to antenatal care and other services. According to Derek Headey, co-author of this study, “Our study highlights, yet again, the importance of gender-related factors, especially in South Asia. Any efforts to address stunting in high burden districts in India that do not explicitly consider the multiple ways in which women’s status and poverty play out, will likely fall short.”