THOUSAND DAYS OF NUTRITION, AND A BILLION DREAMS
WHAT IS MALNUTRITION?
Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy or nutrients. It can be categorised into three types:
- Undernutrition- it includes conditions of wasting, stunting and underweight.
- Micronutrient-related malnutrition- it includes deficiency or excess of micronutrient i.e vitamins and minerals.
- Overweight- it is related to obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes etc.
SIGNIFICANCE OF FIGHT AGAINST MALNUTRITION
- As nourishing of the physical well-being and mental potential of the people, particularly children is dependent on a healthy diet, fighting against malnutrition will play a critical role in realising its billion plus dreams over the next decade or two.
- Also, Article 47 of the Constitution states that it is “duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health” and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Goal 2 aims to “End hunger”.
PRESENT SCENARIO IN INDIA
- The Global Nutrition Report 2020 has identified India as one with the highest rates of domestic inequalities in malnutrition. India is among 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025.
- In India, 37.9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively, while the rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.
- One in two women of reproductive age is anaemic.
EFFECTS OF MALNUTRITION
- It has long-ranging effects on health and high social and public costs leading to reduced work capacity due to frequent illness and disability.
- On children– malnutrition tends to impair cognitive ability, thus affecting their school performance and productivity in later life.
- Malnourished mothers tend to have low-birth weight babies thus impacting the immune system of the young ones. In 2017, a staggering 68% of 1.04 million deaths of children under five years in India was attributable to malnutrition, reckoned a Lancet study in 2019
- The public health becomes vulnerable to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and diet-related chronic diseases due weak immunity.
- Thus, malnutrition places a burden heavy enough for India and it is necessary to make it a top national priority.
- Food insecurity due to poverty and migration (as seen during ongoing pandemic)
- Lack of maternal education and inadequate childcare practices
- Monoculture agricultural practices and changing food patterns have made the Indian plate devoid of various nutrients and minerals
- Lack of access to clean water and sanitation leading to various infectious diseases
- Gender bias is the major cause of malnutrition among women and girl child
- Lack of real time data have lead to ineffective policy making
- Current ongoing pandemic have further deepen the problem
The country has been making progress on nutrition for the last two decades, due to government efforts-
- The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to make access to food as a legal right.
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, aims at providing food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
- Mid-day Meal (MDM) scheme aims to improve nutritional levels among schools along with a positive impact on enrolment, retention and attendance in schools.
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) aims to provide economic aid to the pregnant women for availing better delivery facilities.
- POSHAN Abhiyaan, launched in 2018, is an overarching scheme for holistic nutrition. Under it, the government strengthened the delivery of essential nutrition interventions so that more children have the right start in life for optimum growth, health, development and a prosperous future.
CONCLUSION To ensure effective implementation of these schemes, the country needs to retain its financial commitments and earmark additional funds to preserve nutritional security in vulnerable communities, particularly women and children in slum areas, migrants, the population in tribal areas and districts with malnutrition rates.
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