A new research study finds that average maternal nutrition in India is not only much worse than what national data suggest but significantly worse than in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are, on average, poorer, less educated and have higher fertility rates.
According to the study, 42.2 per cent of Indian women are underweight when they begin pregnancy, nearly seven percentage points higher than the figure of 35.5 per cent cited in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 and 25 percentage points more than the figure for sub-Saharan African women.
The study was published on March 2 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), highlighting another significant aspect of discrimination against women in India.
“These findings should be a wake-up call about maternal nutrition in India. The health of children is one of the most important measures of the well-being of society and that starts during pregnancy,” said Diane Coffey, who conducted the study. Coffey is a researcher with Princeton University’s Office of Population Research and co-founder of r.i.c.e, an institute that researches human development of Indian children.