India has pledged to make the country malnutrition free by 2022. The National Nutrition Mission, National Nutrition Strategy, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, ICDS, PDS, NFSA, RKVY, Aspirational District Programme, Eat Right Movement, etc., have all been launched to achieve this goal. While these programmes have improved nutritional status, several national and international studies show that India still performs poorly on important nutritional metrics.
- According to UNICEF, India was at 10th spot among countries with highest number of underweight children and at 17th position for highest number of stunted children in the world in 2019.
- India has a 50% higher prevalence of undernutrition compared to the world average.
- The proportion of the undernourished population declined from 21.6% during 2004-06 to 15.4% during 2018-20.
Reasons behind prevalence of malnutrition
- Open defecation increases disease risk and lowers nutrient absorption in youngsters.
- Poverty causes families to choose cheaper, lower-quality meals.
- Early girl marriages result in teenage pregnancies, low birth weight babies, and poor breastfeeding and supplementary feeding habits. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution of water, air, and soil threaten millions of children’s and youth’s nutrition.
- Poor targeting and PDS leaks cause accessibility issues for the lowest 30% of households.
- Now, DBT has created an issue since financial resources are diverted from food to other consumptions.
- The school lunch menu does not include products that are readily available and culturally acceptable.
- Lack of knowledge regarding children’s nutritional needs is a sign of illiteracy.
- Without safe drinking water, food digestion is hampered, and waterborne infections are spread.
- Further, fast food culture is changing children’s eating habits and the social and cultural values we place on food.
- Inadequate data collection by anganwadi workers at the local level.
Thus, a multi-dimensional approach is required, incorporating nutrition, awareness, sanitation, and other social variables. It would ensure that malnutrition is no longer an issue in India.