New Survey finds Rising Food Prices Forced Nearly a Third of Families Surveyed in India to Cut Back on Food with their Children not having Enough to Eat

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 16, 2012 07:00 hrs

New Delhi, Delhi, India:A recent survey by Save the Children has revealed that after a year of soaring food prices, 29% of the Indianfamilies covered by the survey say they have been forced to cut back on food, complaining that they did not have enough to eat.Since last year and in 2012, food prices have risen, except an odd week or so when they have dropped marginally.

The survey is being released along with Save the Children’s report, A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition, on February 15 by Save the Children International and India CEOs Jasmine Whitbread and Thomas Chandy.Ms. Whitbread is currently on a visit to India and discussing malnutrition is her top priority.

The global poll, which covered Indiaas well asBangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and Peru – the five countries where more than half of the world's malnourished children live – also revealed that half of those surveyed in India said that food prices had become their most pressing concern in the last year. Almost one in five parents (17%) in India saidtheir children had skipped school so they could work to help pay for food. The survey was conducted between December 19, 2011 and January 9, 2012.

In India and Nigeria, the highest populated countries in South Asia and Africa respectively, and both fast growing economies, parents appear to be struggling to feed their children, showing that a large proportion of the population is yet to benefit from the economic progress. A large majority of people in India (66%) said that an increase in food prices had become their most pressing concern in 2011.

In India, 24% of families reported that their children go without food for an entire day while the proportion of such families is 27%in Nigeria. In both India and Nigeria, parents who are less educated, have more than one childand have lower income are more likely to report this.

The growing trend of malnutrition is especially alarming in Asia, where more than a third of the children are chronically malnourished or stunted, accounting for almost 100 million (60%) of the global total . In India, despite experiencing huge economic growth in the past few years, almost half of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, being home to more than a third of the world’s stunted children(2).

The survey contains a snap-shot of the hardship that families are facing in countries already struggling with high rates of malnutrition. It shows that rising food prices and malnutrition are putting additional pressure on countries with already high burdens of child mortality. Unless tackled urgently now, half a billion children’s lives will be irreversibly affected by malnutritionover the next 15 years(3).

“A set of factors is responsible for the widespread malnutrition in the country, but the issue can be addressed effectively, provided there is political will,” said Save the Children India CEO Thomas Chandy. “Our recommendations include setting up a nutrition mission, better-defining and refining the selection criteria of families below poverty line and a host of essential interventions to improve nutritional security of families,” said Mr Chandy. (Detailed recommendations and problem analysis can be seen in the note Tackling Malnutrition, India).

Jasmine Whitbread said, “There are a number of simple solutions set of proven, cost-effective interventionsthat can stop children going hungry and protect them into the future. Countries need to invest in health services to ensure that well-trained health workers are able to deliver the interventions needed to improve nutrition, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

In India, Save the Children is calling for the government to:

• Urgently enact a comprehensive National Food Security Bill. In its current form, the Bill does not address families’ nutritional security needs.

• Make appropriate budgetary allocations in nutrition that meet the requirements of the Supreme Court April 2004 Order.

Save the Children points out that although malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths in the world (2.6 million each year) , it has not received the same high-profile campaigning and investment as other causes of child mortality like HIV/AIDS or malaria.

Yet the costs – both in human and economic terms – are huge. A child who is chronically malnourished can have an IQ of up to 15 points less than a child properly nourished whilst Save the Children estimates the cost to the global economy of child malnutrition in 2010 alone was nearly $121 billion. (6)

Save the Children supports a list of essential interventions as recommended by the Coalition for Sustainable NutritionSecurity in India (7), chaired by Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, which include encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for children up to 6 months of age, integrating household food and nutrition security considerations into the design of existing government missions and programmes, expanding and improving nutrition education and involvement and accountability at the community level. These measures are needed to turn the tide for nutritional security in India.

Notes to editors:

Save the Children’s new report is part of their global EVERY ONE campaign to save millions of children’s lives by stopping them dying from basic illnesses we know how to prevent and treat.

The survey was carried out by Globescan, international polling agency, in December 2011 and January 2012 in Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Peru. These countries are the home of half of the world’s 170m million stunted children. Proportion of stunted children in countries surveyed:

Nigeria 43% (10.9M), Pakistan 42% (10.1M) of children stunted, Bangladesh 43% (7M), India 48% (60.5M), Peru 24% (712,560)(8).

A randomly-selected sample of over 1000 adults over 18 years was interviewed in each country spanning both urban and rural areas. The data were weighted by income group and male and female. The results are nationally representative. In all but Bangladesh, the interviews were carried out face to face. In Bangladesh, where the penetration rate of mobile phone among adults is between 80 and 90%, the interviews were carried out through random direct dialling.

(1) Ibid.

(2) Save the Children (2009) Hungry for Change: An eight-step, costed plan of action to tackle global child malnutrition

(3) Save the Children: ‘A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition’ (2012)

(4) Based on calculation that 35% of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition (Black et al, Lancet, January 2008) and there were 7.6 million child deaths in 2010 (UNICEF, 2011, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2011)

(5) S Horton: ‘Opportunities for investments in low income Asia’, Asian Development Review, 17, p.246–73 (1999)

(6) Annual cost of malnutrition is 3% GDP to developing world countries (‘Scaling Up Nutrition: What Will It Cost?’, World Bank 2010), $121BN across 20 highest-burden countries.


(8) UNICEF, The State Of The World’s Children: Adolescence, An Age of Opportunity, Table 2 (2011)
Anupam Srivastava, Save the Children, +91 9910093893

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