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RSTV IAS UPSC – Fight against Malnutrition
Published on Nov. 8, 2019, 11:24 a.m.

Fight against malnutrition

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General studies 1

  • Population and associated issues
  • Poverty and developmental issues

General studies 2

  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger

In News: In a bid to tackle malnutrition, government is developing an Atlas to map the crops and food grains grown in different regions of the country so that nutritious protein rich food in local areas can be promoted. 

According to the World Bank Global Nutrition Report – 2018, malnutrition costs India at least $10 billion annually in terms of lost productivity, illness and death and is seriously retarding improvements in human development and further reduction of childhood mortality. 

Who is working on it?

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Deendayal Research Institute is developing a POSHAN atlas under POSHAN Abhiyan.
  • The POSHAN atlas will map the crops and food grains grown in different regions of the country because the solution to tackling malnutrition lies in promoting regional cropping patterns and embracing local food that are rich in protein

POSHAN Abhiyan: POSHAN Abhiyan is government's multi-ministerial convergence mission with the vision to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022. It is focusing on ensuring the nutrition of children, women, and pregnant mothers in impoverished areas and the government seems to be looking at community management of the problem.

Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019

While India is tagged as a country with ‘serious’ levels of hunger, climate change will further worsen its undernutrition levels, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019, a report jointly published by Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welthungerlife, a German NGO has highlighted.

  • India in terms of hunger rankings has slipped from 95th rank in 2010 to 102nd in 2019.
  • India’s poorer neighbours — Bangladesh, Nepal, and even Pakistan — have overtaken India in the battle against hunger.
  • Because of its large population, India’s GHI indicator values have an outsized impact on the indicator values for the region. India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8%—the highest wasting rate of any country in this report for which data or estimates were available
  • Its (India) child stunting rate, 37.9%, is also categorized as very high in terms of its public health significance. In India, just 9.6% of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet

The Way Forward

In India, to combat the malnutrition levels both immediate and long term interventions are needed. There is still a need for a more humane-cum-holistic approach and this can only be achieved by an active multi-sector approach, reinforced with a new set of national-level policies or guidelines around the usage of a community-based approach of addressing acute malnutrition in India.

  • To end hunger, food producers must be supported to receive adequate remuneration. There is a need for sound measures to protect farmer incomes, including income transfers to farmers, minimum support-price guarantees and crop insurance, and a massive expansion of farm credit. For farm workers, a refocus on land reforms is called for, and, a greatly expanded and effectively managed rural employment guarantee programme with attention to land and watershed development, small irrigation and afforestation. There must also be an urgent and comprehensive shift to sustainable agricultural technologies less dependent on irrigation, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, to reverse our agri-ecological crisis.
  • Hunger can’t be combated without addressing the burgeoning job crisis. It also entails labour reforms which protect job security, fair work conditions and social security of all workers. The time has come for an urban employment guarantee programme, to help build basic public services and infrastructure for the urban poor — especially slum and pavement residents, and the homeless. This should also include employment in the care economy, with services for child-care, children and adults with disability and older persons.
  • The Public Distribution System must be universalised (excluding income tax payees), and should distribute not just cereals but also pulses and edible oils. Further, we need to reimagine it as a decentralised system where a variety of crops are procured and distributed locally. Both pre-school feeding and school meals need adequate budgets, and the meals should be supplemented with nutrient-rich foods such as dairy products, eggs and fruits. Social protection also entails universal pension for persons not covered by formal schemes, universal maternity entitlements to enable all women in informal work to rest and breast-feed their children, a vastly expanded creche scheme, and residential schools for homeless children and child workers.
  • Malnourishment results not just from inadequate food intakes, but also because food is not absorbed due to frequent infections caused by bad drinking water, poor sanitation and lack of healthcare. India’s nutrition failures are also because of persisting gaps in securing potable water to all citizens, and continued open defecation despite optimistic official reporting. There is an urgent requirement for a legally enforceable right to healthcare, with universal and free out-patient and hospital-based care, free diagnostics and free medicines.
  • Focusing on adolescent girls, before they become mothers, is critical to break India’s intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. There is a need to provide impetus on aspects such as compulsory breastfeeding, adequate complementary feeding, immunization practices, hidden hunger (micronutrients) among malnourished women which leads to babies being born with low birth weight (LBW) (for example, a single bout of diarrhea can push an LBW baby towards acute malnutrition), energy-dense nutritious food (necessary for recovery of SAM children), and access to clean water and sanitation (WASH) for families.
  • Ending hunger and undernutrition in a changing climate demands large-scale action to address the inequities exacerbated by climate change while minimizing environmental changes that could prove catastrophic to human life. It requires us to better prepare for and respond to disasters, support resilience and adaptation among the most vulnerable groups and regions, address global inequalities, mitigate climate change without compromising food and nutrition security, make financing for climate action fair and effective, and radically transform food systems.

Having a clear cut, state specific, contextual community based solution to address acute and chronic malnutrition is the need of the hour

Must Read: Link 1

Note:

The 2019 GHI measured hunger in 117 countries where the assessment is most relevant and where data on all four component indicators are available. These indicators are proportion of underweight, and undernourished, mortality rate, stunted children under 5 years of age.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Climate justice is a transformative concept. Discuss.
  2. The Prime Minister has framed Poshan Abhiyaan as a Jan Andolan. That makes Malnutrition a collective problem. Comment.
  3. Despite rapid economic growth, hunger and malnutrition remain a challenge in many districts of India. Why? Analyse.