Stunting, a measure of chronic malnutrition, in children in India under the age of five has reduced at a rate of about 1% per year in the last decade, according to a report released by the United Nations World Food Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics. At the current rate, 31.4% children will be stunted by 2022.

World Food Programme spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said at a UN briefing in Switzerland’s Geneva city on Tuesday that this was the slowest rate of decline among emerging countries, and most countries in Asia, Xinhua reported. The report is a baseline analysis of India’s progress in achieving the second Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger by 2030.

“Despite India becoming self-sufficient in foodgrain production with a large increase in the production of rice, wheat, and other cereals, the per capita availability of these grains has not increased at the same level due to inequality, population growth, food wastage and losses, and exports,” Verhoosel said.

India’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal, with an overall population of 1.32 billion, will have a critical impact on the overall global success of reaching zero hunger, he added.

The report said India should reduce stunting by at least 2% annually to reach the target of 25% by 2022 set under the National Nutrition Mission. Goa and Kerala already achieved the target during the 2015-’16 National Family Health Survey. Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Puducherry and Tripura have also reached the target, while Punjab (25.7%) is close to achieving it.

The prevalence of stunting in children under five years of age is the highest in Bihar (48%), Uttar Pradesh (46%), Jharkhand (45%), and Meghalaya (44%). Jharkhand also has the highest prevalence of children who are underweight (48%) and are wasting (29%).

Verhoosel said the report indicated that malnutrition rates were “well below acceptable levels” despite positive trends and patterns of improving food security.

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