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A study co-authored by Oxford researchers says spikes in food prices during the last global recession can be linked with the increase in malnutrition among children in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in 2009.

Wasting of indian children in the recession linked to food price spikes

The researchers examined the proportion of children who experienced 'wasting', a widely used measure of malnutrition that shows a child has a lower than expected weight given their height (based on World Health Organization standards). They observed progress in child nutrition between 2002 and 2006 when the proportion of wasted children in Andhra Pradesh fell slightly from 19% to 18%. However, this improvement had reversed by 2009 when 28% of children were wasted – an increase of 10 percentage points compared with 2006.  This was after high inflation in food prices in the district, beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2009.  The research paper is published in the online version of the Journal of Nutrition.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Public Health Foundation of India and the Department of Sociology at University of Oxford, with a team from Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. They focused on the effect of food prices on child nutrition in Andhra Pradesh, one of India’s largest states, using data from the Young Lives study of child poverty.

The research team combined children’s weight and height measurements from the Young Lives data with government data on household level expenditure on and consumption patterns of food from the Indian National Sample Survey Office and the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau in order to calculate how much children ate across food categories. The researchers found that children’s food consumption dropped significantly between 2006 and 2009 as food prices increased. There were corresponding increases in wasting among children from poor and middle-income households, but not high-income households between 2006 and 2009.  The paper suggests this supports the theory that poorer households have the smallest food reserves and are therefore hardest hit by rising food prices.

Read more on the University website 

Read about the Department of Sociology

Read about the Oxford Department for International Development's Young Lives study

Read The Journal of Nutrition publication