A multi-dimensional approach to tackle malnutrition

Synopsis: Solution to the issue of malnutrition is not solely dependent on increasing food intake, but it requires a multidimensional approach including women empowerment.


  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) has provided mixed results.
  • Positive results include fall in infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rates, increase in institutional births and child immunisation rates. Negative results include worsening nutrition level.
  • For dealing with the issue of malnutrition, it is important that direct nutrition interventions are ensured during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in the early years of a child’s life.
    • hot cooked meals with adequate protein, milk, and green leafy vegetables should be provided to the pregnant women, lactating mothers and young children.

How to improve the nutrition level by a multidimensional approach?

  1. Hot cooked meals
    • Many states have replaced the provision of take-home rations with the daily hot cooked meals for mothers
    • It also provides an opportunity for the front-line workers to give pregnant women iron, folic acid and calcium tablets.
    • Moreover, women coming to the anganwadi to take hot cooked meals, instead of take-home ration delivered at their homes, provides workers with an opportunity to engaged in early childhood stimulation activities by counselling and parenting sessions with the pregnant women.
Intergenerational cycle of malnutrition?

malnourished mother will give birth to a low-birth-weight baby; the low-birth-weight baby will grow as a malnourished child, then to a malnourished teenager, then to a malnourished pregnant woman, and so the cycle continues.

2. Adoption of life cycle approach

    • To stop the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, a life cycle approach needs to be adopted, which goes beyond “first thousand days” approach.
    • This approach includes prevention of child marriage by supporting girls to stay in high school by grassroot programs and improving their nutrition level by Mid-day meal scheme.

3. Economic empowerment

    • Childhood care enables girls to become self-dependent by earning their livelihood. Economic empowerment of women is directly linked to the nutrition level of children.
    • To assist mothers working without concern of their children’s safety and well-being, Mobile creches for younger children should be provided at worksites.

4. Strengthening Anganwadi system

    • Worker’s development: Supervisors of anganwadis should be provided with the facilities like interest-free loans and fuel allowance for two-wheelers.
      • Upgradation of Skill level of Anganwadi workers and supervisors should be facilitated through online sessions, trainings and certificate courses on nutrition and early childhood stimulation.
    • Infrastructure development: Facilities for cooking, playing of children, water connection should be upgraded.
      • Double-burner stoves, gas cylinders, pressure cookers and sufficient steel cooking vessels should be provided to cater to multiple meal requirements.

5. Empowerment at gram panchayat level

    • There are around 2,50,000 gram panchayats in India, and nearly 14 lakh anganwadis, the majority of these are in rural areas.
    • Every Gram panchayat must have an anganwadi committee, which would meet every month on a fixed day and will present an action plan for Gram Panchayat.

6. Tackling issue of Exclusion and convergence

Local governments are capable of dealing with both the issues effectively.

    • It can ensure the inclusion of the Poorest, migrants, nomadic and semi-nomadic communities in social welfare programs.
    • Panchayats are best place to deal with the child marriage due to their social reach and influence.
    • Convergence can also be brought by Panchayats by using its funds in strengthening of Anganwadis. It can work with Anganwadi workers, ASHAs, ANMs and anganwadi supervisors to ensure the beneficiaries are provided with immunisation, antenatal care, maternity benefits and nutrition services.

Women empowerment is the key for tackling the issue of malnutrition and local level government are best placed to make this empowerment possible. All the possible assistance should be made mandatory by the government to anganwadi and program focussed on welfare of women.

Read more about National Family Health Survey

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