The children

Picture in India

Child Participation

Early years

Primary school years




© UNICEF India
Mother breastfeeding her child.

Malnutrition is more common in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. One in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India.

Malnutrition limits development and the capacity to learn. It also costs lives: about 50 per cent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.

In India, around 46 per cent of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47 per cent are underweight and at least 16 per cent are wasted. Many of these children are severely malnourished.

The prevalence of malnutrition varies across states, with Madhya Pradesh recording the highest rate (55 per cent) and Kerala among the lowest (27 per cent).

Malnutrition in children is not affected by food intake alone; it is also influenced by access to health services, quality of care for the child and pregnant mother as well as good hygiene practices. Girls are more at risk of malnutrition than boys because of their lower social status.

1 in 3 of the world's malnourished children lives in India

Malnutrition in early childhood has serious, long-term consequences because it impedes motor, sensory, cognitive, social and emotional development. Malnourished children are less likely to perform well in school and more likely to grow into malnourished adults, at greater risk of disease and early death. Around one-third of all adult women are underweight. Inadequate care of women and girls, especially during pregnancy, results in low- birthweight babies. Nearly 30 per cent of all newborns have a low birthweight, making them vulnerable to further malnutrition and disease.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also affect children’s survival and development. Anaemia affects 74 per cent of children under the age of three, more than 90 per cent of adolescent girls and 50 per cent of women. Iodine deficiency, which reduces learning capacity by up to 13 per cent, is widespread because fewer than half of all households use iodised salt. Vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness and increases morbidity and mortality among pre-schoolers, also remains a public-health problem.

MPs stage a Candlelight Vigil to highlight Child Malnutrition in India
Getting more than 100 Members of Parliament to sign a pledge was never going to be an easy task. Staging a candlelight vigil at the high-security India Gate area was also fraught with problems– permissions, security, crowds…etc.

India’s largest contributor to child mortality gears up to save its children
Sunken eyes, swollen belly, shrivelled skin. Listless, lifeless, weighing barely 4.5 kg, two-year-old Abhilasha had little hope of survival.





Government of India Action on Nutrition

  • Commitment to reduce malnutrition and low birthweight through national and state level policies

  • Use of community-based approach to address malnutrition and child development

  • Provision of Vitamin A and iron supplementation to address damage caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection