India is facing bigger problems in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as the challenge to ensure the holistic nourishment of the children gets more difficult. To combat the crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah announced the month of September as the ‘POSHAN Maah 2020‘ or the ‘Nutrition Month 2020’. They are urging the citizens to send nutritious recipes from all around the country and create awareness for the POSHAN Abhiyan through community mobilization on the MyGov website.
PM tweeted, “Proper nutrition is vital to building a prosperous nation. #POSHANMaah2020 starts today. Let us undertake efforts to reach out to people across the length and breadth of India and spread awareness on eradicating malnutrition. This will help our Nari Shakti and Yuva Shakti.” While these trends promote a healthy discussion on the subject, what is being done on the ground to substantially end malnutrition is still a question.
Malnutrition and India
According to the combined reports of FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WHO, and WFP on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”, there were 673 million undernourished people globally, out of which India accounts for 189.2 million (28%). Additionally, India also homes 28% of the world’s stunted children under 5 years of age and 43% of the worlds wasted (low weight-for-height) children as per 2019 data. In accordance with its own population, India had 14% of people under-nourished from 2017 to 19. In several districts of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Gujarat, the proportion of underweight children exceeds 40%.
Key determinants of child under-nutrition
There are three major determinants of malnutrition, with reference to the data of NFHS (2015-16) that sampled the data of 2,19,796 children below five years of age. Firstly, the mother’s education has a strong impact on the food security and the sanitation facility.
The second important factor is the wealth index which determines the safety of food and drinking habits, and also ensures sanitation and hygiene which are important for improving child nutritional outcomes.
Thirdly, the agricultural policies and programmes need to be more focused on a nutrient rich diet. This will include more production of staples (rice and wheat) and minimizing the use of chemicals that lower the nutritious value of food.
What has been done so far?
The National Nutrition Mission (NNM), also called the POSHAN Abhiyan, aims at reducing underweight, stunting, and low birth weight by 2% per annum and anemia in children and adolescent girls by 3% per annum by 2022. However, the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2017 says that if the current trends in India continue, then these goals are not achievable by 2022.
India is still trying to control the rates by promoting ‘Aanganwaadi’ workers and helping the rural dwellers in child-caring practices. Prenatal and postnatal health care services are also affecting the rate of nutrition. The promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and the introduction of complementary food after six months is equally essential for the cognitive development and appropriate growth of the children.
- For a scheme like ‘POSHAN Maah’ to work, there has to be an attempt to bring change in the actual affected places and individuals.
- Social media is good for creating awareness but it has to be complemented greatly with on-ground work.
- The government has to address the issues leading to malnutrition and then attempt to eradicate them by 2030.
- Policies should be made for the citizens to come forward and volunteer to help the malnourished population, as possible.