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According to the Global Nutrition Report 2014: Actions and Accountability to Accelerate the World's Progress on Nutrition, prepared by IFPRI (Please click here to download):

• Prevalence of stunting among children below 5 years age has reduced from 47.9% in 2005-06 (National Family Health Survey, NFHS-3) to 38.8% in 2013-14 (Rapid Survey on Children, RSOC). As a result, the population of under-five children affected by stunting has gone down from 5.82 crore in 2005-06 to 4.38 crore in 2013-14.

• Prevalence of wasting among children below 5 years age has reduced from 20.0% in 2005-06 (National Family Health Survey, NFHS-3) to 15.0% in 2013-14 (Rapid Survey on Children, RSOC). As a result, the population of under-five children affected by wasting has gone down from 2.43 crore in 2005-06 to 1.69 crore in 2013-14.

• The Government of India is yet to release all the findings of the 2013–2014 Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC). This new national survey, covering all 29 states in India, relies on data collected by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in partnership with UNICEF India. The Government has made preliminary estimates available for use in this Global Nutrition Report. Only data for children under age five are reported here.

• The average annual rate of reduction in stunting (47.9 percent to 38.8 percent in eight years) is 2.6 percent—below India’s target rate of 3.7 percent but well above the rate of 1.7 percent estimated on the basis of previous surveys. Because India has such a large population and a high stunting prevalence, this rate of change affects the global numbers significantly. Comparisons between the two surveys (i.e 2005–2006 NFHS and 2013–2014 Rapid Survey on Children-RSOC) also show declines in wasting.

• The rise in exclusive breastfeeding rates from 46.4 percent to 71.6 percent in eight years represents an average annual rate of increase of 5.5 percent—far above the rate required to meet India’s World Health Assembly (WHA) target by 2025 (1.5 percent). In fact, if the preliminary numbers hold, by 2025 India will have far surpassed its WHA exclusive breastfeeding target of 57 percent.

• For India—the second-most populous country in the world—new and preliminary national data suggest it is experiencing a much faster improvement in World Health Assembly (WHA) indicators than currently assumed. For example, if the new preliminary estimates undergo no further significant adjustments, then the numbers of stunted children under the age of five in India has already declined by more than 10 million.

• The Government of India has produced a new national survey on children. WHO and UNICEF have not yet reviewed the survey’s data and methodologies, and the survey results thus do not yet appear in the WHO’s Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, but if the finalized rates of undernutrition are close to the preliminary reported rates, they should make us more optimistic about India's ability to meet the global World Health Assembly (WHA) goals.

• Experiences from the Indian state of Maharashtra suggest that significant change in nutrition status can happen over the medium term as a result of determined action sustained over a period of 6–12 years.

• There is a new statewide survey from Maharashtra in India (Haddad et al 2014). In the Maharashtra case study, it took only seven years to reduce child stunting by one-third, from 36.5 to 24.0 percent, for an annual average rate of reduction of 5.8 percent. Stunting declines resulted from a combination of nutrition-specific interventions, improved access to food and education, and reductions in poverty and fertility.

• The benefit to cost ratio of scaling up nutrition-specific interventions for stunting reduction in India is 34.

Rural Expert

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