Every second Indian woman is anemic, says nutrition report

New Delhi, May 12 (efe-epa).- Every second woman of reproductive age in India is anemic, according to a new study published on Tuesday, as the country battles a nutrition crisis due to widespread social and economic inequalities.

The 2020 Global Nutrition Report, which looked at 140 countries, said India was suffering from a double whammy of serious nutrition problems – one due to over-eating that causes obesity and undernutrition due to food scarcity.

“In India, one in two women of reproductive age is anemic, one in three children under five years of age is stunted, and one in five children under five years is wasted,” said the annual analysis by the World Health Organisation of global nutrition patterns.

According to WHO, anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the hemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. This results in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

The most common causes of anemia include nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron deficiency, though deficiencies in folate, vitamins B12 and A are also important causes.

The United Nations health watchdog considers anemia a serious global public health problem that particularly affects young children and pregnant women.

It estimates that 42 percent of children less than five years of age and 40 percent of pregnant women worldwide are anemic.

The WHO’s nutritional report examines the progress of targets on maternal, infant, and young child nutrition targets and diet-related chronic diseases.

It said inequalities in India were “evident for stunting, with stunting prevalence being 10.1 percent higher in rural versus urban areas”.

Nigeria and Indonesia are the other two countries that share the unenviable position with India where “the largest disparities in stunting were observed (and) where the levels varied four-fold across communities,” according to the report.

It underlined that underweight was prevalent in the world’s poorest regions, especially in South Asia.

The report revealed a high incidence of overweight or obesity in India that has affected 20.7 percent of adult women and 18.9 percent of adult men in the country.

“With this coexistence of undernutrition and overweight or obesity, India faces the double burden of malnutrition,” the WHO report noted.

Venkatesh Mannar, co-chair of the report and special adviser on nutrition to the Tata Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative, told EFE that factors like cultural and economic contributions to South Asia’s undernutrition and stunting problems.

“This inequality (…) is deeply rooted within the systems,” he said.

Mannar said the governments in the region should invest more in ensuring a healthy nutrition for the entire population especially at a time when COVID-19 crisis has exposed gaps in our food systems,

He said if the governments fail to address the nutrition crisis and ensure that healthy and sustainably produced food is accessible to the people, they might further lose their resistance power to fight diseases.

The report highlighted the government’s Aspirational Districts program launched in January 2018 in recognition of the fact that “the quality of life of all its citizens is not consistent with India’s significant economic growth over the past 10 years”.

There has also been major variation within Indian states in terms of social and economic development indicators in the world’s second-most populous country.

The program focuses policy attention towards addressing inequity, social injustice, and exclusion in 115 “aspirational districts” in 28 Indian states, through a concerted effort to improve the performance of services – including health, nutrition, education, infrastructure, agriculture, and water resources.

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