Malnutrition in India
Malnutrition in India
Significance of Zero Hunger
- The reason for mapping hunger is to ensure that the world achieves “Zero Hunger by 2030”— one of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 2) laid out by the United Nations.
- Although, achieving zero hunger requires not only addressing hunger, but also the associated aspect of malnutrition i.e food and nutrition security.
- World Food Day is observed annually on October 16 to address the problem of global hunger.
Status of Malnutrition in India
- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 194.4 million people in India (about 14.5% of the total population) are undernourished.
- India ranks 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019.
NOTE: Global Hunger Index is based on three leading indicators:
- Child undernutrition: The prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under five years of age.
- Child mortality: rate under five years of age.
- Inadequate food supply: The proportion of undernourished in the population.
- Within South Asia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are all ahead of India.
- Further, there has been dismal progress from last year ranking in the Global Hunger Index, in 2018 India ranks 103 out of 119 countries.
- According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in 2017, malnutrition was the predominant risk factor for death in children younger than five in every state of India.
- According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, malnutrition is among the leading causes of death and disability in India.
What are the reasons for prevalent malnutrition in India?
- Monoculture agricultural practices: While foodgrain production has increased over five times since Independence, it has not sufficiently addressed the issue of malnutrition.
- This is because, for long the agriculture sector in India focused on increasing food production, particularly staples (wheat and rice).
- This led to lower production and consumption of indigenous traditional crops/grains, fruits and other vegetables, impacting food and nutrition security in the process.
- This intensive monoculture agricultural practices can perpetuate the food and nutrition security problem by degrading the quality of land, water and the food derived through them.
- Changing food patterns: Food consumption patterns have changed substantially in India over the past few decades, which has resulted in the disappearance of many nutritious local foods, for example, millets.
- Poverty: Though poverty alone does not lead to malnutrition, it affects the availability of adequate amounts of nutritious food for the most vulnerable populations.
- Lack of sanitation and clean drinking water: Lack of potable water, poor sanitation, and dangerous hygiene practices increase vulnerability to infectious and water-borne diseases, which are direct causes of acute malnutrition.
- Migration: Seasonal migrations have long been a livelihood strategy for the poorest households in India, as a means to access food and money through casual labour.
- However, children and women are the most affected, suffering from deprivation during migrations impacting their health condition.
- Gender injustice: There is a correlation between gender discrimination and poor nutrition.
- Malnourished girls become malnourished adolescents who marry early and have children who become malnourished, and so the cycle continues.
- Lacunae at policy level: There is a lack of real-time data that brings all these factors together to show the extent of India’s malnutrition.
- Lax implementation: Providing nutritious food to the country’s children is more a matter of political will and effective policy implementation at the grassroots level.
- For example, the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak in Bihar marked the failure of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in the state.
Government Schemes to Tackle Malnutrition
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme
- The scheme provides specific interventions targeted towards the vulnerable groups include children below 6 years and women.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- It provides a package of six services namely supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, nutrition & health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services.
- National Health Mission (NHM)
- National Health Mission (NHM) was launched by the government of India in 2013.
- It subsumed the National Rural Health Mission and the National Urban Health Mission.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
- It was further extended in March 2018, to continue till March 2020.
- The main programmatic components include health system strengthening in rural and urban areas for – Reproductive-Maternal- Neonatal-Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A), and Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases.
- Mid Day Meal Scheme
- It was launched in 1995 as a centrally sponsored scheme.
- It provides that every child within the age group of six to fourteen years studying in classes I to VIII who enrols and attends the school shall be provided with a hot cooked meal, free of charge every day except on school holidays.
- The Mid Day Meal Scheme comes under the HRD Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy.
- Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna (IGMSY)
- The scheme aims to contribute to a better enabling environment by providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development
- National Nutritional policy 1993
- The National Nutrition Policy (NNP) was adopted under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- The strategy of NNP was a multi-sectoral strategy for eradicating malnutrition and achieving optimum nutrition for all.
- Multi-sectoral approach: Substantial improvements across malnutrition indicators in the states of India would require an integrated nutrition policy.
- These improvements include providing clean drinking water, reducing rates of open defecation, improving women’s status, enhancing agricultural productivity and food security, promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
- Integrated nutrition policy can be brought by harmonization of efforts across ministries, political will and good governance.
- Such coordinated efforts will ensure that essential nutrition services reach the most deprived communities.
- National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyaan) seeks to ensure a “malnutrition free India” by 2022.
- POSHAN Abhiyaan which is India’s flagship program, envisages improving nutritional outcomes for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers, is a step in the right direction.
- However, it would require long-term investments in health, sanitation and nutrition in preventing deaths due to severe acute malnutrition.
- Decentralisation: Panchayats should be allowed to have a bigger say in running welfare schemes.
- Diversification: Public Distribution System should be diversified, to include millets.
- Strengthen MGNREGA to ensure better food security.
- MGNREGA can play a vital role in mitigating the disastrous effects of droughts in rural areas.