Is the Data on Child Malnutrition in India Accurate?

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According to the Global Nutrition Report, 2018, India has 46.6 million stunted children—the highest in the world—followed by Nigeria and Pakistan, with 13.9 million and 10.7 million stunted children respectively. How accurate are these figures? Is the current methodology used to estimate child malnutrition figures effective, and if not, how can these methods be improved?


In his 2013 article, “Does India Really Suffer from Worse Child Malnutrition Than Sub Saharan Africa?” Arvind Panagariya argues that the World Health Organization (WHO) used faulty methodology, due to which India was shown to have a higher incidence of child malnutrition than Sub-Saharan Africa. He suggests alternative techniques that would improve the situation. Stuart Gillespie responds, stating that the WHO method is correct and also criticises Panagariya’s approach. In their respective articles, Wable, Coffey et al and Lodha et al argue that while Panagariya states “genetics” to be the cause of all problems, there are other factors that also cause malnutrition. Arun Gupta et al respond to Panagariya, stating that it is necessary to understand the root cause of malnutrition and not just solely focus on the statistical figures. Finally, Jayachandran and Pande suggest a household choice–based method to study child malnutrition.


A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Burden of Child Malnutrition in India: A View from Parliamentary Constituencies, Swaminathan et al, 2019
  2. Food Insecurity and Malnutrition among Santhal Children in Jharkhand, Manjari Sinha, 2018
  3. Determinants of Child Malnutrition in Tribal Areas of Madhya Pradesh, Rajesh Mishra, 2017
  4. Estimates of Child Malnutrition in India, Peter Svedberg, 2010


Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—“Children and Nutrition.”

Curated by  Gitali Rodrigues  []

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