67 Lakh Indian Children Have 'Zero Food': Worse Than Pakistan, Bangladesh


Rohit Kulkarni

Rohit Kulkarni

May 27, 2024


The 21st century belongs to India, as said by many. India is one of the fastest growing countries in the world.

67 Lakh Indian Children Have 'Zero Food': Worse Than Pakistan, Bangladesh

India Ranks Third-Highest in ‘Zero-Food’ Children

India is topping the charts again in a sphere, but it is not where it should be.

As per the study published in Lancet Discovery Science, India has the third-highest rate of ‘Zero-Food’ children at 19.3%, trailing only Guinea and Mali.

This research was conducted using health surveys from 92 low-income and middle-income countries between 1993 and 2021.

Notably, neighbours of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have significantly lower rate, 5.6% and 9.1% respectively.

‘Zero-Food’ children are defined as those who have not consumed any food within a 24-hour period.

The data that has been utilized has been taken from the Union health ministry’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS), but still the ministry criticized the study as ‘malicious and a deliberate attempt to sensationalize fake news.’ 

On the contrary, an assistant professor of economics at Dr. B R Ambedkar University in Delhi, Dr. Dipa Sinha has emphasized that the study highlights significant deficits in infant and young child feeding practices in India. 

As compared to the poorer nations, with 19.3% of its infants and small children suffering from zero-food, India performs very poorly, indicating severe delays in the initiation of complementary feeding.

At 6 months, the complementary feeding should start, but many Indian children face delay, ranging from 6 to 9 months.

This issue is quite serious and is reflective of insufficient feeding practices. Exclusive breastfeeding, timely introduction of complementary foods, diverse diets, and continued breastfeeding are various ways to how to properly feed infant and young child.

What is alarming is that only 11% of Indian children that are aged between 6 to 23 months meet the ‘minimum acceptable diet’ as defined by the WHO.

Calling the study results as malicious and false, the health ministry’s detracts from addressing the real issue.

Addressing Deep-Rooted Structural Issues with India’s Child Nutrition Crisis

On the other hand, the study is transparent when it comes to its methodology and definitions, using comparable data for all countries. 

In addition to this, India’s precarious ranking points to the massive deficits in infant and young child feeding practices.

Not just that but the country also ranks poorly on the Global Hunger index, which not only measures hunger but also measures malnutrition and mortality.

This ranking is indicative of how the nation struggles when it comes to providing adequate health and nutrition inputs to young children. 

Fixing and addressing these issues requires understanding of the root causes, which include poor feeding practices, lack of diverse and affordable foods, gender inequality, and inadequate care provisions. 

In order to improve the status of women and children in India, effective solutions must combine behavioural change campaigns with structural support systems.

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Rohit Kulkarni
Rohit Kulkarni
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