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Institute for International Programs

New Delhi, India

June 28, 2013

India is home to 40% of the world’s malnourished children. India’s 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the latest data on nutrition indicators available for India, showed that nearly half (46%) of Indian children below three years of age were underweight and 38% were stunted. These are staggering and tragic statistics for a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

While the country has arguably invested heavily in nutrition-specific interventions, India’s latest data on nutrition indicators is nearly a decade old. Problems are still pervasive, and there is no way to track progress. As a result, there is resounding agreement among stakeholders that the greatest need for India to tackle nutrition in the short-term is a commitment to data collection through existing mechanisms, which would help quantify the problem of undernutrition and effectively target resources to solve it.

It was in this context that the decision was made to host a Lancet launch in India in order to highlight the country’s progress and pervasive challenges on nutrition and identify opportunities to drive forward momentum to solve the problem at the national level.

The India Lancet Series launch was held on June 28 in New Delhi, and included both a technical briefing and press conference co-hosted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India (Nutrition Coalition), with support from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Micronutrient Initiative.

The event drew a standing-room only crowd of more than 230 stakeholder participants and reporters from 40 media outlets. Authors Bob Black, Harold Alderman, Venkatesh Mannar and Purnima Menon opened the half-day session with a technical briefing that included a presentation of Series findings followed by an interactive discussion with the audience.

The technical briefing was chaired by Minister Jairam Ramesh, who delivered powerful remarks that focused on the role of sanitation – highlighted in the Series as a critical nutrition-sensitive intervention – in promoting nutrition. The Minister also used the opportunity to announce plans to expand a successful community-based Ministry program to provide nutritious meals to women and children at a sustainable cost.

Following the technical briefing, the event concluded with a political panel designed to focus squarely on the nutrition challenges in India, highlight success stories and discuss the way forward. The panel included Prof. K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI); Dr. Vinod Paul, Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS); Vandana Krishna, Secretary and Commissioner of Women and Child Development for the State of Maharashtra (profiled as a success story in the Lancet Series) and Neerja Chaudhry, widely acclaimed journalist and outspoken supporter of the need to improve nutrition in India.

Post-event coverage to date has included more than 50 stories, over 90% of which have focused squarely on the large percentage of India’s children dying of malnutrition; the lack of data on nutrition indicators in India; the need to address the nutrition-sensitive intervention of sanitation and the need to improve maternal and child nutrition to ensure India’s continued economic growth.

MEDIA

The Wall Street Journal (July 19, 2013): Is India Data-Starved on Malnutrition?

The Times of India (june 29, 2013): India has no data on its nutritional status