Care for severely wasted children
For every child, nurturing care to prevent wasting. UNICEF is working to strengthen community and health systems to care for severely wasted children.
Wasting still impacts the lives of far too many children. There are 51 million wasted children in the world, India alone houses 20 million - that’s half of the world’s severely wasted children. (CNNS 2016-18 and JME 2018 in India).
Wasting, or low weight for height, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. It is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease.
Since 2005 in India, severe wasting in children declined from six per cent to five per cent, while wasting levels remained stagnant (19.8 per cent in 2006, 17.3 per cent in 2018) (NFHS3 2005-06, CNNS 2016-18).
About 21 per cent of children under age 5 are wasted (International Institute for Population Sciences, National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 2015-16). The national average also hides the greater burden and prevalence among certain geographic areas and population groups. Children from tribal communities have an especially high prevalence of wasting at 21.5 per cent.
Severely wasted children are more likely to die because their immunity to infections is weakened by a lack of nutrients. Those who survive may go on to suffer poor growth and development and fail to thrive.
Children become severely wasted if they do not gain enough weight or lose weight due to inadequate dietary intake or diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections. The high proportion and number of severely wasted children reflects the poor nutritional status of women during pregnancy, poor breastfeeding and feeding practices, lack of sanitation and hygiene, poor access to quality health services and food insecurity.
The costs of chronic malnutrition in India are high and include having citizens with lowered learning capacity, poor school performance, reduced earnings, increased risks of nutrition-related chronic diseases that all ultimately leading to the loss of the Country's human capital.
According to the 2014 Global Nutrition Report investing in ending all forms of malnutrition is one of the most cost-effective steps governments can take.
Every US$1 invested in proven nutrition interventions offers benefits worth US$16.
In partnership with the Government of India UNICEF's large-scale programming effectively aims at reducing this burden, and helps save and improve the lives of millions of women and children, especially in marginalized groups by reducing and preventing malnutrition. Progress made in lowering the rates of stunting and wasting is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals along with national and regional targets for malnutrition.
In our Country Programme 2018-2022 UNICEF continues to support the Government's efforts to reduce wasting among the most vulnerable populations.
This is being done by universalizing coverage of proven high-impact interventions around the 1000 days -from conception to two years – and for adolescent girls and women. Special focus will be on geographic pockets and social groups where the nutrition indicators are significantly below India's and state averages. Improving child feeding practices, especially complementary foods between six and 18 months of age are also critical.
Social and behaviour change initiatives, such as community-level counselling, dialogue, media engagement and advocacy especially in marginalized communities, will be integral to promoting usage of locally available, nutrient-dense affordable foods for young children.
Since malnourished mothers are more likely to have malnourished children, UNICEF promotes supplementary feeding schemes for adolescent girls, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
In addition to evidence-based programming and behaviour change, key approaches and priorities to address wasting include multi-sectoral coordination, capacity building, a focus on equity and monitoring and evaluation.
UNICEF also supports and advocates for facility-based treatment for children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), jointly with several state governments. As a result, Government of India has approved the piloting of a community-based SAM programme in 13 states where UNICEF has its field presence.