New Delhi, May 14 : Over 1.5 million children in India are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices, the Unicef, says.
It warns that food inflation could be devastating for vulnerable women and children right across South Asia.
According to the BBC, the region already has the largest number of malnourished children in the world and levels could get even worse.
Even before the current crisis almost half of all Indian children showed signs of stunted growth, Unicef says.
"It is a perfect storm, we have increasing malnutrition in an area that already has the majority of malnutrition in the world," Daniel Toole, Unicef's regional director for South Asia, said here on Tuesday.
"We have huge numbers of people living in poverty and a doubling of food prices. Those factors combined mean that we're going to just create tremendous vulnerability," he added.
According to Unicef's latest State of the World's Children's report, India has the worst indicators of child malnutrition in South Asia.
It claims that 48 percent of under fives in India are stunted, compared to 43 percent in Bangladesh and 37 percent in Pakistan.
The report further goes on to say that 30 percent of babies in India are born underweight, compared to 22 percent in Bangladesh and 19 percent in Pakistan.
Unicef calculates that 40 percent of all underweight babies in the world are Indian.
Put all that in hard numbers and the figures are stark. Fifty million Indian under fives are affected by malnutrition. Rising food prices, Unicef says mean 1.5 to 1.8 million more children in India alone could end up malnourished.
And already Unicef says more expensive food is having an impact.
Three hundred million Indians live on less than one dollar a day, according to the UN.
Poor families who cannot afford rising food prices are having to save money where they can, and that also means spending less on healthcare and education.
Food prices, he believes, will remain high for at least the next two years, and in that time it is
First the priority must be to feed the hungry across South Asia, Unicef says. India must invest more in agriculture, Unicef says.