Image: Shakila sits with her daughter Sania at a ward for malnourished children in Morena, India
Mustafa Quraishi  /  AP, file
A woman named Shakila sits with her daughter Sania at a ward for malnourished children at a government hospital in Morena, India, on April 13, 2011.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/11/2012 6:54:22 AM ET 2012-01-11T11:54:22

Forty-two percent of children in India younger than 5 are underweight and nearly 60 percent are stunted, according to a new study.

The Hunger and Malnutrition Survey monitored over 100,000 children in 112 districts across nine states in the country from October 2010 to February of last year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released the report Tuesday and called child malnutrition a "national shame."

According to India Today, the study suggests that as many as 61 million children are malnourished.

'Unacceptably high'
India's economy has boomed, with growth over the last few years averaging about 8 percent, but the country's development indicators continue to be abysmal.

Singh described the child malnutrition statistic as "unacceptably high."

"We cannot hope for a healthy future with a large number of malnourished children,” AFP quoted Singh as saying.

The survey conducted by a group of non-profits was the largest such study since 2004, when the Indian government had surveyed child malnutrition. It was the first study by the group so comparative numbers are not available.

According to the latest UNICEF data, one-third of the world's malnourished children younger than 3 lives in India, a rate worse than sub-Saharan Africa.

"India has progressed quite a lot in the last 20 years," opposition lawmaker Jay Panda told India Today. "But the fight against malnutrition has not made as much progress."

About 40 percent of India's 1.2 billion people live below the U.N. poverty line.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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