Pale faces…hollow cheeks…thin skin….sunken eyes…lack of muscle mass, this was what I found when I look at the faces of the unprivileged population of India. Malnutrition is the name given to all the above listed problems. Malnutrition refers to the condition which results from lack of having a proper balanced diet. The diet they intake does not contain either enough nutrients or the nutrients contained are too less that it causes various health problems. In such diets there is lack of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, proteins and so on which may lead to severe health problems such as poor mental health, respiratory disease and so on as well. Malnutrition can be in three forms:

  • UNDERNUTRITION: This includes wasting that is low weight-for-height, stunting that is low height-for-age and underweight that is low weight-for-age.
  • MICRONUTRIENT-RELATED MALNUTRITION: This includes micro-nutrient deficiency that is a lack of important vitamins and minerals or micro-nutrient excess.
  • OVERWEIGHT: This includes obesity and diet related non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

If we talk in terms of data and statistics, sources from World Health Organization say, that around 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese while 462 million are underweight. 52 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese. Around 45% of deaths among children under the age of 5 years are linked to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low and middle income grouped people. MALNUTRITION weakens every part of our body which in turn reduces our immune system and may give birth to many infections and infectious diseases as well. It is a major risk factor in the onset of active tuberculosis. Protein and energy related malnutrition and deficiency in micronutrient including zinc, iron, and vitamins increase susceptibility to infection. Malnutrition affects HIV transmission as well by increasing the risk of transmission from the mother to the child.

  • UNDERNUTRITION: This can cause: weight loss, loss of fat and muscle mass, hollow cheeks, a swollen stomach, dry hair and skin, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating and depression. Some serious effects of under-nutrition are Kwashiorkor which a severe protein deficiency and Marasmus which is severe calorie deficiency. It may lead to night blindness, diarrhea etc.
  • OVERNUTRITION: The main signs of overnutrition are overweight and obesity, but it also can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Preventing and treating malnutrition involves addressing the causes which led to malnourishment. Researchers have discovered that the most effective way to prevent malnutrition includes providing iron, zinc and iodine pills and food supplements and nutrition education to the population at risk. Interventions that encourage to intake healthy and balanced food diet and physical activity can also help a lot. The diet should contain variety of food that includes enough of carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals and water as well.


If we talk about malnutrition in India, despite of 50% increase in GDP since 1991 more than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in India. One of the major causes for malnutrition in INDIA is economic inequality. Due to low social status these low income grouped people are not able to afford a balanced diet and their diet often lags behind both in terms of quality and quantity as well. The women who are malnourished often tend to give birth to unhealthy children as well. Deficiencies in nutrition inflict long-term damage to both society as well as individuals. Due to malnutrition, the person is less productive, and as a result of low productivity their earning is also low trapping them in the vicious circle of malnourishment. THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT has launched several programs to reduce the number of malnourishment cases in India. They include ICDS, NCF, National Health Mission. Midday meal scheme in Indian schools were started on 15 August 1995. It serves millions of children with fresh cooked meals in almost all the government schools or the schools which are aided by the government fund. Apart from this Food for Life Annamrita run by ISKCON Food Relief Foundation and the Akshaya Patra Foundation run the world’s largest NGO-run midday meal programmes serving freshly cooked food to over 1.3 million school children in government school in India. WHO aims for a world free of all forms of malnutrition. According to the 2016-2025 nutrition strategy , WHO works with its member states and partners to achieve this by using effective food system and effective nutrition intervention. The Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health is adopted for 2016-2030. MALNUTRITION in all its forms affects all countries to some degree. So the solutions with which, WHO has come up can help us to eradicate this complex problem once and for all. The time has come to address the root causes of malnutrition in all its form and become the first Zero Hunger generation.

– Priyanshi Tiwari

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