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Hunger pangs among Indian children

Jan 11, 2012

The HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Survey conducted by the Naandi Foundation presents India's malnutrition data at the district level in a pioneering attempt to make the voices of over 74,000 mothers heard.

HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Survey, 2011

Published by: Naandi Foundation


The HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Survey conducted across 112 rural districts of India in 2011 provides reliable estimates of child nutrition covering nearly 20% of Indian children. Its objective was to understand the current situation and provide a basis for focused action.

The idea of this survey was triggered by the Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition – a group of young leaders, most of them young parliamentarians - in the context of a wide gap in current data and knowledge on child malnutrition in India.

Of the 112 districts surveyed, 100 are those with the poorest child development indicators, and referred to as the 100 Focus Districts in this report. These districts are located across six states - Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Having the largest sample size for a child nutrition survey since 2004, the HUNGaMA Survey captured nutrition status of 109,093 children under five years. Data collection took place between October 2010 and February 2011 in 3,360 villages across 9 states.

Coordinated by the Naandi Foundation, the HUNGaMA Survey presents underweight, stunting and wasting data at the district level (last done in 2004 by DLHS-2, which reported only underweight estimates). It is also the first ever effort to make the voices of over 74,000 mothers heard.

Key findings of the 100 focus districts

  • A reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition is observed: the prevalence of child underweight has decreased from 53% to 42%; this represents a 20.3% decrease over a 7 year period with an average annual rate of reduction of 2.9%.
  • Child malnutrition is widespread across states and districts and starts early in life: 42% of children under five are underweight and 59% are stunted. Of the children suffering from stunting, about half are severely stunted; about half of all children are underweight or stunted by age 24 months.
  • Birth weight is an important risk-factor for child malnutrition: the prevalence of underweight in children born with a weight below 2.5 kg is 50% while that among children born with a weight above 2.5 kg is 34%.
  • Household socio-economic status has a significant effect on children’s nutrition status: The prevalence of malnutrition is significantly higher among children from low-income families. Children from Muslim or SC/ST households generally have worse nutrition indicators.
  • Girls’ nutrition advantage over boys fades away with time: The nutrition advantage girls have over boys in the first months of life seems to be reversed over time as they grow older, potentially indicating neglect vis-à-vis girls in early childhood.
  • Mothers’ education level determines children’s nutrition: the prevalence of child underweight among mothers who cannot read is 45% while that among mothers with 10 or more years of education is 27%; 92% mothers had never heard the word “malnutrition”.
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