Why isn’t India’s economic growth improving its shocking levels of child malnutrition?
New report, launched in New Delhi on Wednesday 16 September, suggests a failure in governance is responsible for India's extraordinary levels of malnutrition and warns that new funding alone cannot prevent another lost generation.
Despite impressive economic growth, India remains home to one-third of the world's undernourished children. The latest issue of the IDS Bulletin, ‘Lifting the Curse: Overcoming Persistent Undernutrition in India', argues that this problem reflects a failure in governance - it is difficult to hold nutrition service providers accountable, nutrition practices exclude large groups of individuals and benefits often don't reach those who need them. The journal argues that although the Indian Government's national Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) plan has committed a four fold increase of approx £170 million since 2008 to tackle undernutrition, this money will be wasted unless it is better targeted.
From 1980-2005 real GDP per capita in India grew by 3.95 per cent per year yet between 1992-2006, the percentage of underweight infants under three in India only fell from 52 to 46 per cent.
‘Normally we expect economic growth and improved nutrition to go hand-in-hand but at the current rate India will not reach the Millennium Development Goal - to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by 50 per cent by 2015 - until 2043,' said Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies and co-editor of this issue of the IDS Bulletin. ‘By failing to reach this target, the Indian government is condemning a further generation to the brain damage, poorer education and early death that result from malnutrition.'
This issue of the IDS Bulletin, the flagship journal of the Institute of Development Studies published by Wiley-Blackwell, presents papers from over 20 Indian authors which suggest that a failure of nutrition governance is responsible for the shocking state of malnutrition in the country:
- millions of citizens are unable to hold government officials to account for delivering the nutrition services they need;
- practices frequently exclude large groups of individuals - including lower castes, women and girls - from accessing quality services;
- the benefits of economic growth have not trickled down to the poor, whilst the wealthy are increasingly using private services;
Specific recommendations from ‘Lifting the Curse: Overcoming Persistent Undernutrition in India' include:
- enabling communities to rate and publish the local provision of nutrition services;
- creating new mechanisms that enable different Government departments to work together to deliver food, care and health in combinations that work;
- giving the Comptroller General and Auditor Office a bigger role in monitoring Government action on nutrition;
- improving engagement by historically-excluded groups with nutrition programmes, in particular involving women from these groups in designing better outreach programmes;
- introducing simpler but more regular monitoring of nutrition status so that civil society and the media can hold the Government and non-state actors to account;
- developing new ways of thinking about and conducting research on how to improve nutrition - so that it is not just seen as a technical exercise, but also as an exercise in politics, governance and power.
‘The persistence of extraordinary levels of child malnutrition in India in the midst of a whirlwind of economic growth - maintained even in the midst of the global recession -must seem like a curse,' continued Lawrence Haddad. ‘But the Government of India can act to dramatically change the situation. By doing so it will not only lift the curse and raise the stature of its children, it will raise its own standing in the world.'
This issue of the IDS Bulletin was made possible by funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). ‘This Bulletin shows that there is no shortage of ideas in India about what to do to tackle malnutrition' said Michael Anderson, Head, DFID India, ‘but leadership from the top and joint action across government are needed to turn these ideas into practical solutions. The challenge is urgent: the lives of millions of children depend on it.'
Notes for Editors
- Available for interview
- Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies and lead author of this IDS Bulletin. Professor Haddad will be in New Delhi, India until Friday 18 September 2009
- To request an interview please contact:
India: Anuradha Dhar, A-Dhar@dfid.gov.uk, Tel: +91-9873087180
- ‘Lifting the Curse: Overcoming Persistent Undernutrition in India', IDS Bulletin 40.4 was produced by the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, published by Wiley-Blackwell and funded by the UK Department for International Development
- The report will be launched on 16 September at the Jacranda II India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
Related Content - News & Blogs
BLOG: how smallholder agriculture contributes to food security and nutrition
From the KNOTS team blog
BLOG: Between Puff and Plunder: The evidence on business and nutrition
By Lawrence Haddad
BLOG: If we want to tackle hunger and undernutrition, we must invest more in agriculture
Guest blog by Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chair of the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development
BLOG: Nutrition Champion Awards - Nominations Open
By Lawrence Haddad
Related Content - Events
The Search for Stability through Stabilisation: Case Studies from Afghanistan and Nepal
28 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, Institute of Development Studies
India’s dream run, 2003-2008
29 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, IDS
Will the BRICS Bank change development and shift the global balance of power?
11 June 2013 18:00 to 19:30
Committee Room 16, House of Commons