There is an urgent need to address poor nutrition in India, especially among the children. We must remember that more than 190 million people sleep hungry every night in India and over half of adolescent girls and women are anaemic, despite a 7 percent compound annual growth rate over the last decade.
- In 2008, the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges was constituted.
- A report titled ‘Addressing India’s Nutrition Challenges’ was submitted in 2010 by the Planning Commission, but nothing changed significantly.
- Recently, the government had announced the flagship programme of Ministry of Women and Child Development i.e. National Nutrition Mission or POSHAN Abhiyaan.
- It has a budget of Rs 9,046 crores and a proposed World Bank loan of $200 million to ensure convergence among the various programmes of the government.
- NITI Aayog has isolated 100 most backward districts for National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) which are suffering from stunting.
- NNS has set a very ambitious target for 2022 and POSHAN Abhiyaan has specified three-year targets to reduce stunting, under nutrition and low birth weight by 2 percent each year and to reduce anaemia by 3 percent each year.
- Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan has been contributing positively to nutrition outcomes and well structured public-private partnerships could be a further catalyst in this direction.
What should be done?
- We should adequately re-engineer the ICDS, MDM and PDS for greater effectiveness. The overhaul of capacity and capability in three existing programmes namely, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-Day Meals (MDM) and Public Distribution System (PDS) under the National Food Security Act would help cover millions of beneficiaries. Creating public-private partnerships to create and design frameworks, structures, processes and metrics for action, implementation and tracking would help to make it more effective.
- It is important to scale food fortification comprising edible oil, wheat, rice and dairy products, in addition to salt. Evidence from several countries suggest that the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of large-scale staple food fortification to address ‘hidden hunger’ or micro nutrient deficiencies has yielded favourable results.
- Multiple campaigns designed to inform, communicate and educate on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive behaviours like breast feeding, diet diversity, hand washing, deworming, safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation would help us to meaningfully engage the target audience and bring fruitful results.
Nutrition is a complex subject and the delivery must be simplified through greater awareness and implementation which can be achieved by collaborations across several domains with clear cut decision rights and hard-wired processes enabled by technology and a significant investment in competencies of people.
Source – The Hindu
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