Q Despite undertaking many initiatives, malnutrition continues to be a matter of concern for India. Analyse
• Giving a brief introduction, bring out various initiatives taken to eradicate malnutrition.
• Explain the extent of malnutrition, which still remains a concern.
• Analyse the reasons for such a situation and conclude accordingly.
Malnutrition remains a matter of concern for India. It has slipped from 95th rank in 2010 to 102nd in 2019 on the Global Hunger Index (GHI). India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 21%, the highest wasting rate of any country. India’s child stunting rate, 38.4%, is also categorized as very high. In India, just 9.6% of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet.
In this context, India has pledged to make the country malnutrition free by 2022 and undertaken many initiatives such as National Nutrition Mission, National Nutrition Strategy, Mid-Day Meal scheme, ICDS, PDS, NFSA, RKVY, Aspirational District Programme, Eat Right Movement etc.
These initiatives have led to improvement in numbers on fronts like mortality rates etc. but India’s performance on key malnutrition indicators is poor according to various national and international studies. As per Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019, despite decreasing stunting by one fifth during the last decade, almost one in three Indian children under five years will still remain stunted by 2022.
Reason why malnutrition continues to be a concern in India is because malnutrition in India is not due to a single factor but there are multiple reasons that contribute to it. They are:
• Prevalent practice of open defecation makes children prone to diseases and reduces their ability to absorb nutrients.
• Because of poverty, families tend to select low-quality food that costs less.
• Early marriages of girls lead to teenage pregnancies resulting in low birth weight of the
newborn, poor breastfeeding practices and poor complementary feeding practices.
• Climate shocks, loss of biodiversity, and damage to water, air and soil are worsening the
nutritional prospects of millions of children and young people.
• Poor targeting, and leakages in PDS result in accessibility problems for the poorest 30 percent
of households. Now, DBT has also created a problem as funds get digressed from other
consumptions rather than food.
• The food menu provided for children in schools are not set as per locally available and
culturally acceptable items.
• Illiteracy levels also show up in lack of awareness about nutritional needs of children at
• Lack of availability of safe drinking water hinders proper digestion and assimilation of food
and also causes water and food borne diseases.
• Further, fast food culture is profoundly altering how and what children eat, as well as the
social and cultural values we attach to food.
• Lack of capacity of the anganwadi worker to furnish inadequate data at the village level.
Thus, there is a need to take a multi-dimensional approach involving access to nutrition, awareness levels, sanitation and other social determinants of the problem. It would ensure that malnutrition does not remain a silent emergency for India.