Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India has been ranked 103 out of 119 countries with hunger levels categorised as ‘serious’, in the Global Hunger Index 2018.
Unfortunate figures –
- As per the National Family Health Survey-2016, the proportion of stunted (low height for age) children under five is significantly higher (38.4%) than global (22.9%) averages.
- The underweight (low weight for age) children rate (35.7%) is a lot higher than the global average (13.5%) too.
- India is home to over 53.3 million stunted, 49.6 million underweight and 29.2 million wasted (low weight for height) children under five.
Major challenges –
- One problem lies with the current thinking of growth-oriented development. Two low-income EAG (Empowered-Action-Group) States, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, have performed better on this front compared to Gujarat and Maharashtra where per capita income is almost double.
- The development path prevalent in Gujarat is more about growth and investment, which, however, has not been able to translate as better nutritional status in the State.
- Tribals, rural, poor and illiterate mothers’ children are badly off in so-called developed States of Haryana, Gujarat and Punjab.
- Around two-thirds of stunted/underweight children are from 200 districts of both less developed and developed States.
- Another prominent idea is the need to link agriculture and nutrition, as agriculture provides answers to most nutrition problems. malnutrition in some of its agriculturally-developed districts (Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, Rohtak as well as in Gurugram) is even higher than the average of Odisha.
- The diversified food intake (responsible for lowering stunting and malnourishment in children) is very low in a majority of Indian districts; just 28% of children consumed over five items of the total 19 food items.
Way forward –
- An inclusive and holistic approach, including controlling/regulating food price, strengthening the public distribution system (PDS) and income support policies for making food cheaper are important steps.
- The government must broaden the ICDS programme by ensuring diversity in food items in worst-hit districts.
- Sustained budgetary commitment towards nutrition components should be ensured in the recently launched National Nutrition Mission which aims to fight maternal and child malnutrition.
Note – National Nutrition Mission aims to achieve the targets of underweight and stunted children under five years from 35.7% to 20.7% and from 38.4% to 25% respectively by 2022.
Source – The Hindu
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