India 'shamed' by child malnutrition, says PM Singh

Malnourished children in India
Image caption One in three malnourished child on this planet is Indian, the report said

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has branded malnutrition among children a "national shame", after a report said nearly half of children under five in the country were underweight.

According to the report, 42% of children in that age bracket are suffering from malnutrition.

Mr Singh said the level of malnutrition in India was "unacceptably high".

The Hunger and Malnutrition Report also said that one in three malnourished children in the world is Indian.

India was also found to have the highest rate in the world of stunted growth among children.

The report, by a group of non-governmental organisations, surveyed 73,000 households across nine states.

'Worrying and encouraging'

Mr Singh said the government could not rely solely on the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) - India's largest nutritional programme - to tackle malnutrition.

He said the findings of the report were both "worrying and encouraging".

"The survey reports high levels of malnutrition, but it also indicates that one child in five has reached an acceptable healthy weight during the last seven years," he said.

The prime minister emphasised the need for a more integrated approach towards tackling hunger in the country.

Mr Singh said that "health professionals cannot solely concentrate on curative care. Drinking water and sanitation providers cannot be oblivious to the positive externality of their actions. The school teacher needs to be aware of the nutritional needs of the adolescent girl."

The report' findings reflect others by international organisations like Unicef, which says that in India 20% of children under five years of age suffer from wasting due to acute under nutrition.

At the end of 2011, the government tabled a landmark bill aimed at guaranteeing cheap food for more than half the country's population.

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