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Malnutrition behind 69% of deaths in children under five in India: UNICEF

New Delhi: Malnutrition has caused 69% of child deaths in India under five, according to a UNICEF report released Wednesday.

In its report entitled "State of the World's Children in 2019", UNICEF said that every second child in that age group is suffering from some form of malnutrition.

This includes stunting (35%), spending (17%) and overweight (2%). Only 42% of children (in the age group of 6 to 23 months) are fed an appropriate frequency, and 21% receive an appropriately varied diet.

Timely supplemental feeding is initiated for only 53% of infants aged 6-8 months.

For the health of Indian women, it is said that every second woman is anemic. Anemia is also said to be most prevalent in children under the age of five. Its prevalence in adolescent girls is twice as high as in adolescent boys.

Indian children are diagnosed with adult diseases such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease and pre-diabetic.

Data show that children under the age of five are affected by micronutrient deficiencies. While every fifth child under the age of five is deficient in vitamin A, one in every third baby has vitamin B12 deficiency and two out of every five children are anemic.

The report says that POSAN Abyan or the National Nutrition Mission plays a major role in improving nutrition indicators across India. The Anemia Makt Bahrati Program to Fight Anemic Disease is recognized as one of the best programs implemented by governments around the world to address malnutrition.

The program's 6X6X6 strategy (six target groups of beneficiaries, six interventions and six institutional mechanisms) is highlighted in the use of anemia testing and treatment as an entry point to provide information on healthy diets.

Overweight and obesity are increasingly beginning in childhood with an increased threat of infectious diseases such as diabetes (10%) in school-age children and adolescents.

Urban India is turning into an unhealthy environment for nibbling on food, which affects children's food choices and is spreading to rural areas. India's food consumption patterns reveal that children's diets are largely starved of protein and micronutrients and are influenced by household food choices (adults).

For decades, despite rising incomes, protein-based calories have remained low and unchanged, and the calorie intake of fruits and vegetables has declined. The report says that 77% of processed food sales are controlled by only 100 large companies globally.

In cities, many poor children live in "food deserts" or "swamps with food."

Concerning the situation globally, a UNICEF report says that at least one in three children under five – or 200 million – is either malnourished or overweight.

The report states that nearly two out of three children between the ages of six months and two years are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains. This puts them at risk of poor brain development, poor learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death, it said.

UNICEF had previously published such a report 20 years ago.

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