India’s malnutrition challenge 2020

Context: There is need for an immediate universalisation of the PDS, distribution of quality food items and community kitchens.

What does the recent survey of the Hindu say?
  • In this report, a schoolteacher had highlighted how girl students, who took admission in Standard five were relatively shorter in height than the previous year’s batch of students.
  • It was largely integrated with malnutritionthat is burgeoning.
  • Children from impoverished households not being able to have the mid-day meal many a time because of stomach-related problems.
What does the global reports say about malnutrition?
  • The annual report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the 2020 Hunger report, “Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow” by the Bread for the World Institute have stated staggering facts about Indian food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • As per PoU and PMSFI India is one of the most food-insecure countries, with the highest rates of stunting and wasting among other South Asian countries.
  • The Prevalence of Undernourishment(PoU)measures the percentage of people who are consuming insufficient calories than their required minimum dietary energy requirement.
  • The Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Food Insecurity(PMSFI) identifies the percentage of people who live in households that are severely or moderately food insecure.
  • Food Insecurity Experience Scale survey, which covers almost 90% of the world’s population but not allowed to be conducted in India.
  • It indicates that between 2014-16, about 29.1% of the total population was food insecure, which rose up to 32.9% in 2017-19.
  • About 375 million of the total population was moderately or severely food insecure in 2014, which went to about 450 million in 2019.
What are the issues currently existing?
  • High incidence of malnutrition: The reduction in poverty has been substantial going but malnutrition has not declined.
  • Poor performance: In terms of percentages, the PoU has declined 24.7% between 2001 and 2018 for India; other data are China (76.4%), Nepal (74%), Pakistan (42%), Afghanistan (37.4%) and Bangladesh (18.9%).
  • Low consumption: “Hunger Watch” survey by the Right to Food Campaign says with close to one out of every three respondents reporting low food consumption and massive compromise on food quality.
  • Double-whammy:  States have temporarily expanded their coverage in the wake of the crisis, the problem of malnutrition is likely to deepen in the coming years with rising unemployment and the deep economic slump.
  • Non inclusive National Food Security Act, 2013: there is non-inclusion of nutritious food items such as pulses and exclusion of potential beneficiaries.
What need to be done?
  • Universalisation of the Public Distribution System: It should focus on the distribution of quality food items and innovative interventions.
  • Focus on nutrition:United Nations World Food Programme should bring focus back on pressing issues of undernourishment and hunger in India.

The need of the hour is the right utilisation and expansion of existing programmes to arrest at least some part of this burgeoning malnutrition in the country.

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