India’s dipping rank in Global Hunger Index raises concern among paediatricians. Compared to last year, where it was positioned at 80, India ranked 97th out of 118 countries on the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index in 2016. What is more surprising is, neighbouring countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh are ahead of it. It is however ahead of Pakistan and three other Asian countries.
“Poor hunger index means more malnourished children. Malnourishment leads to reduced life span and intelligence level. It decreases productivity, playing ability too,” said Dr Ashish Satav, President of NGO MAHAN, which is working on malnourishment in rural Maharashtra.
He said malnourishment increases the risk of children getting prone to infections. “Tubebrculosis, diarrhoea, respiratory infections are some of the most common infections that children are prone to,” added Satav.
Doctors explain that malnutrition weakens the body’s immune system. “Apart from increasing the risk of contracting infections, it slows down physical growth and hampers brain development thereby reducing the ultimate functional potential of the child,” said Dr Samir Dalwai, president of Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP).
He said preventing malnutrition should be the single most important child health initiative. “We can never have a healthy nation unless malnutrition is eradicated,” said Dalwai.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) run KEM hospital in Parel alone sees 2-3 cases of severe malnutrition per month. “Malnutrition is not just a problem in rural India but there are many urban pockets that see malnutrition cases. Gastrointestinal infections leading to diarrohea, respiratory infections are the most common infections for which these children get hospitalised,” said Dr MukeshAgarwal, head of the paediatric department at KEM hospital.
He said that a malnourished child tends to grow up as a malnourished adult. “It is a vicious circle. We should have a program wherein malnourishment is nipped in the bud,” said Agarwal.