Malnutrition in India is a complicated problem. It serves as an illustration of how India is a country of extremes. Many people in the population are poor and unable to buy as much food as they require. In contrast to this, obesity is becoming a more widespread problem across the nation. Read here to understand more about the issue of malnutrition.
Over 40% of youngsters receive less food than they should, and almost a third of Indians are thought to be malnourished.
The Indian government is raising food subsidies to solve this issue, but there are still problems because of the country’s fast-expanding population and the increased share of its citizens who live in urban areas.
Regarding its global standing as a crucial indication of human development, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022 has handed India more dismal news. India came in at position 107 out of 121.
- The GHI examines stunting, wasting, and mortality among children as well as caloric insufficiency throughout the population, making it a crucial indicator of nutrition, especially for children.
- Furthermore, there is no evidence of a global conspiracy; according to India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), from 2019 to 21, 35.5% of children under the age of five had stunting, 19.3% had wasted, and 32.1% had an underweight condition.
Malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients, or impaired nutrient utilization.
The double burden of malnutrition consists of both undernutrition and overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
Undernutrition manifests in four broad forms: wasting, stunting, underweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.
- Wasting is defined as low weight for height. It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time. It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses. Wasting in children is associated with a higher risk of death if not treated properly.
- Stunting is defined as low height for age. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life. Stunting prevents children from reaching their physical and cognitive potential.
- Underweight is defined as low weight for age. An underweight child may be stunted, wasted, or both.
- Micronutrient deficiencies are a lack of vitamins and minerals that are essential for body functions such as producing enzymes, hormones, and other substances needed for growth and development.
Malnutrition in India has multiple dimensions like calorific deficiency, protein hunger, and micronutrient deficiency.
The gap in India’s nutrition status
Undernutrition and stunting persist as roadblocks for the country. India is the home to almost one-third of all the world’s stunted children and half the world’s wasted children.
As per the NFHS-5, wealth quintile analysis gives us a further grim picture – half of all children from families in the lowest income quintile are still stunted or underweight. While India has made sustained rapid progress economically, the nutritional status of the country remains at odds.
In India, this situation is complex, as, despite the GDP rise of the country in recent years, untold numbers still live in abject poverty.
- This creates a dual burden of obesity among the wealthier individuals, as well as vast swathes of the population suffering from poverty-related malnutrition.
Major causes of malnutrition in India
- High levels of adult undernutrition affect one-third of the country’s adults
- High levels of child undernutrition, affect almost every second child
- High levels of maternal undernutrition, lead to low birth-weight
- Inappropriate and sub-optimal infant and young child feeding and caring practices
- Issues relating to the prevention of illnesses and access to healthcare
- Low awareness regarding nutrition and the use of local nutritious food including sources of nutrients
- Inadequate attention to the health and nutrition of adolescent girls
- Inadequate access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities
Malnutrition in India: Government initiatives
The government is running various schemes that aim to curb the malnutrition problem.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme:
It was launched in 1975 and the program aims to provide food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health checkups, and referral services to children under 6 years old and their mothers.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY):
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Centrally Sponsored DBT scheme with a cash incentive of ₹ 5000/- (in three installments) being provided directly in the bank/post office account of Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.
National Nutrition Mission (NNM):
The government of India has launched the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), also known as POSHAN Abhiyaan, to eradicate malnutrition by the year 2022.
Anemia Mukt Bharat Abhiyan:
The mission was launched in 2018 to accelerate anemia decline by one to three percentage points annually.
Mid-day Meal (MDM) scheme:
It aims to improve nutrition levels among school children in addition to increasing enrolment, retention, and attendance.
National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013:
NFSA Assuring food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable is the aim of this law, which makes access to food a legal entitlement.
Read: Anemia Mukt Bharat
Malnutrition in India is a multi-dimensional problem hence the Government efforts should prioritize three key areas:
- To support healthy diets for everyone and to address the political economy of food, the government has to put robust regulatory and policy frameworks in place.
- According to some sources, bio-fortification is one of the most affordable ways to supply the required nutrient levels.
- Prioritization should be given to steps that assure efficient execution, integration into policies, customer demand, and access to food.
Finance for nutrition:
- The government should aggressively create new finance mechanisms that can supplement current sources.
- Both within communities and within states, there are disparities in nutrition.
- As a result, data should be used to guide resource allocation decisions through practical, affordable, and evidence-based approaches.
- In addition, the revival and widespread adoption of MDM would be a fantastic place to start.
- The government should design cost-effective nutrition care programs and invest in human resources to expand nutrition services within health services and ensure that everyone has access to high-quality nutrition care.
- The Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) paradigm and community-driven activities like Village Health Sanitation Nutrition Day (VHSND) must be improved.
- There is evidence to support the idea that many kids with severe acute malnutrition can be treated in their neighborhoods without being admitted to a hospital or a therapeutic feeding facility.
- Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0
- Food Security in India
- Breakfast scheme: Feeding the future
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
-Article written by Swathi Satish