Ensuring nutrition security

Source: The post is based on an article “Ensuring nutrition security” published in the Business Standard on 15th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues and Challengers pertaining to buffer stock and PDS System

Relevance: Food Security

News: In the recent periods, the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) and the United Nations report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition 2022 were released.

Findings of the UN report

Globally, the count of undernourished people has swelled by nearly 46 million over the past 15 years. The figure has shrunk by nearly 23.5 million in India. However, the scale of malnutrition still remains worrisome in India.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to eliminate hunger by 2030 is not going to be met because 8% of the world population (about 670mn people, or) would remain underfed in 2030.

What are the proximate causes for such food insecurity?

The prices of cereals, fertilisers and energy has increased. It has turned food unaffordable for a sizable section of the poor.

The Black Sea region which accounts for one-third of the world’s wheat and barley production and close to half of fertiliser output, especially that of potassic fertilisers has not been able to export to meet the global demand.

What are the measures that have been taken by the Indian government for food security in India?

India has been running liberal consumer subsidies and a slew of food-based social welfare programmes, i.e., the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) aimed to alleviate hunger across the country.

What are the issues in India’s food security programmes?

The policies aimed to keep consumer prices in check hurt the interests of farmers.

Findings of the NFHS-5

Regardless of India’s food security, there is rampant malnutrition, including imbalanced nutritional intake in India. These can be illustrated based on the following>

(1) more than half the Indian women in the 15-49 age group are anaemic.

(2) About 45 million children below the age of five suffer from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition.

(3) About 149 million children are stunted due to deficiency of essential minerals and vitamins.

(4) Due to unhealthy food consumption practices, there are high incidence of obesity among both adults and children.

What are the causes behind rampant malnutrition in India?

The inter-ministerial committee which was appointed to go into the findings of the survey has listed lack of affordability, dietary ignorance, and socio-cultural food taboos among the significant factors responsible for rampant malnutrition.

The panel is reported to have observed that the silent crisis of undernourishment has aggravated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Way Forward

The inter-ministerial committee recommended amending the National Food Security Act to make inclusion of protein-rich and micro-nutrients-doped food items. These should be legally mandated as part of the meals provided through food safety programmes in schools and Anganwadis, and under the Poshan Abhiyan.

The food and agricultural policies of the countries should focus on boosting food production as well as enhancing its economic access to the poor.

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