Sounding alarm bells, The Global Nutrition Report 2017 says India faces a serious challenge stemming from both under-nutrition and obesity leading to various health, social and economic problems. Among 140 countries, including India, the GNR-2017 found “significant burdens” of key forms of malnutrition as indicators of the broad trends, the findings released here on Tuesday said. These include: Childhood stunting affecting 38 per cent children under-five years of age of 155 million worldwide; 21 per cent of under-fives defined as “wasted” or “severely wasted”, implying they are underweight for their height, comprising 52 million children.

More than 51 per cent of women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia and more than 22 per cent of adult women are obese or overweight, besides one-third of all women affected worldwide with no country on track to meet global targets. While India has made some headway in addressing the problem of under-five stunting, it has lagged in tackling anaemic women and is off-the-mark in achieving targets to reduce adult obesity and diabetes.

“India’s government is recognising that the country cannot afford inaction on nutrition, but the road ahead is going to be long. “The GNR-2017 highlights (what) needs to be tackled as part of its national nutrition strategy,” said the report. At the global level, nutrition is recognised as key in enabling sustainable development, according to Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the GNR’s Independent Expert Group and Director, Centre for Food Policy at City, University London.

“We will not achieve any of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030 unless there is a critical change in our response to malnutrition in all its forms, and action throughout the goals to tackle the many causes of malnutrition,” said Hawkes. The GNR-2017 calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and combat climate change.

“A well-nourished child is one-third more likely to escape poverty, learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies,” said Jessica Fanzo, GNR co-chair and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food and Agriculture Policy and Ethics at John Hopkins University. The GNR says that overweight and obesity are on the increase in almost every country, with two billion of the world’s seven billion now falling in this category. Less than one per cent of this problem will be tackled by 2025.

In India, 16 per cent of adult men and 22 per cent adult women are overweight, says GNR-2017. A vast majority — 88 per cent — of countries studied, face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition which could have a damaging impact on broader global development efforts.

Though rates of under-nutrition in children are decreasing globally with recent gains in some countries, it is not quick enough to meet the internationally agreed nutrition goals, including the SDGA target to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, said GNR-2017. Donor funding for nutrition increased by just two per cent in 2015 to $867 million, representing a slight fall in the overall percentage of global aid, against the need for tripling it to $70 billion over 10 years to tackle childhood stunting, wasting and anaemia, and increase breastfeeding rates.

Towards this end, the Global Nutrition Summit 2017, held in Milan, Italy, earlier this week saw new commitments of billions of dollars to achieve nutrition targets, including a pledge of $50 million for five years by the Tata Trusts, Mumbai.

“Historically, maternal anaemia and child under-nutrition have been viewed as separate problems to obesity and non-communicable diseases, but the reality is they are intimately connected and driven by inequalities everywhere in the world. “Governments and their partners need to tackle them holistically,” said Fanzo.