Malnutrition in India is a worry in a modern scenario

News: Even after 75 years of independence, India is still struggling to meet the nutritional needs.

Nutritional Indicators

Stunting is defined as low height-for-age

Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height

Anaemia is defined as the condition in which the number of red blood cells (RBCs) or the haemoglobin (Hb) concentration within them is lower than normal.

What is the finding of NFHS-5?

Marginal improvement: As per the survey, there has been marginal improvement across the nutrition indicators in India since the findings of the NFHS-4.

What are the factors behind poor nutritional outcomes?

A child’s nutritional status is directly linked to their mother. Poor nutrition among pregnant women affects the nutritional status of the child and has a greater chance to affect future generations.

What are the issues?

The progress in tackling malnutrition among children and women over the past decade has been slow. This has been despite declining rates of poverty, increased self-sufficiency in food production, and the implementation of a range of government programmes.

Children in several States are more undernourished now than they were five years ago.

(1) Since NFHS-4, 13 States or UTs (including Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Kerala) have seen an increase in stunted children.

(2) Wasting, the most visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition, has either risen or has remained stagnant over the years.

(3) India also has the highest prevalence of anaemia in the world. More than 57% of women (15-49 years) and over 67% children (six-59 months) suffer from anaemia.

What are the consequences of poor nutritional outcomes?

Anaemia has major consequences in terms of human health and development. It reduces the work capacity of individuals. This in turn impact the economy and overall national growth. For example, India loses up to 1.18% of GDP per annum due to iron deficiency anaemia.

Undernourished children are at risk of under-performing in studies and have limited job prospects.

The workforce, affected mentally and physically, has reduced work capacity. This vicious cycle restrains the development of the country.

Way Forward

The investment in women and children’s health and nutrition should be increased. This will ensure their sustainable development and improved quality of life.

India must adopt an outcome-oriented approach on all the nutrition programmes.

The parliamentarians should monitor interventions in their constituencies. All nutritionally vulnerable groups at the local level should be engaged. If individual persons are made aware about the nutritional aspects. They will become an agent of change.

The programmes should be monitored and evaluated. The systemic challenges should be addressed.

There should be a committee on nutritional status which should meet and deliberate over effective policy decisions, monitor the implementation of schemes, and review nutritional status across States.

The government should involve all the stakeholders and contribute towards ending malnutrition and anaemia.

Source: The post is based on an article “Malnutrition in India is a worry in a modern scenario” published in the “The Hindu” on 15th June 2022.

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