New Delhi: Nearly half of India's children below the age of three are underweight and almost 200 million people in the country go to bed hungry every day, says new data.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) say 45.9 percent of Indian children under the age of three are underweight - they do not meet the standard weight in relation to their height and age.
"The national figure of underweight children under the age of three was 47 percent eight years back and now it's 45.9 percent. So there is no appreciable decline," said Dominique Frankefort, WFP India's deputy country director.
Madhya Pradesh, one of the country's biggest states, tops the list with 60.3 percent of its children being underweight.
"India is home to the highest number of undernourished people in the world. And we are working hard to fight that fact," Frankefort said.
According to the WFP, nearly one-third of the world's underweight children are in India and more than 200 million people in the country go to bed hungry every day. This despite the fact that India's economy is growing at the rate of eight percent each year.
"The WFP is working in association with the Indian government to fight poverty and hunger here," Frankefort said.
"In our next five-year plan (2008-12), we will concentrate on six states which are in the central belt of India - Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa - which are the worst hit in case of malnutrition."
The WFP, which has been supporting various food-based programmes in India since 1963, works in association with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) which gives nutritional support to women and children, supports primary education and creates self-help groups in rural areas.