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India is one of the
countries where there's a new, emerging middle class, and where a technology
boom has raised incomes and living standards. But a new survey about nutrition
in India shows some startling results about malnutrition at all levels of
One of the most important things a government can do for the health of its people is to count and calculate. So, for many months in 2005 and 2006, surveyors fanned out across India's 29 states to measure men, women and children and to ask questions about their health.
Fred Arnold from the American consulting group I-C-F Macro helped organize the survey and compiled the results. He says they did 200-thousand interviews, asking about health, nutrition and family planning. They also took blood samples and measured height and weight.
He says a startling result emerged from the data. "We have conducted more than 40 demographic and health surveys in less developed countries in the last five years and of all of those countries, India has the highest rate of prevalence of under-nutrition in children."
Arnold and his colleagues found that that rate was higher even than in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
Arnold explains that this
malnourishment occurred at every level of society - rich and poor alike. In
other countries, the average rate of child malnourishment is about two and a
Arnold and his colleagues also found high numbers of anemia among Indian children, especially those under five years of age. "About seven out of every 10 children in India are anemic and the situation has actually gotten a little bit worse over the last several years", he added. Arnold estimated that this poor nutritional status contributes to more than half the deaths of children under the age of five across the country.
Health agencies in India presented this data to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh [mahn-MOH-hahn SING], who has written a strongly worded letter to all of the Chief Ministers of India's 29 states. In the letter, he says it's clear the nation's feeding programs have failed. And he ordered the Chief Ministers to improve nutrition programs and report back to him every three months so he can monitor progress.