From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : National Family Health Survey
Mains level : Paper 2- Problems of malnutrition and issues with it
The article suggests the ways to deal with the menace of malnutrition in the country.
Findings of the first phase of NFHS-5
- Recently, the first phase of the NFHS-5 survey was published.
- The deteriorating nutrition and anaemia indicators, especially among children is a cause for concern.
- More deterioration in nutrition indicators following the COVID-19 pandemic is feared in the next phase of NFHS-5.
- This deterioration would be on account of loss of livelihoods, reduced food consumption among the poor and disruption of government nutrition programmes.
- Unlike a disease outbreak there may not be any popular demand to address malnutrition — the public, by and large, does not have adequate information about the damage malnutrition causes.
- Hence, in the Indian context, it becomes the responsibility of the government/civil society to first provide information and awareness to the community about malnutrition.
Steps to be taken
- The government should examine the current nutrition-related programmes, and analysing why they are not able to reduce malnutrition faster.
- Additional interventions could be introduced in pockets, identified as high-burden districts.
- There should be different norms and more intensive interventions within the ICDS for these chronically malnourished pockets.
- We need to know if the National Nutrition Policy 1993 is still operational.
- If not, it seems that we are attempting to address this problem without a policy framework or plan of action.
Addressing the root cause of malnutrition in India
The following three deficits are the root cause of malnutrition in India.
1) Dietary deficit
- There is a large dietary deficit among at least 40 per cent of our population of all age groups, shown in— the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau’s Third Repeat Survey (2012), NFHS 4, 2015-16, the NNMB Technical Report Number 27, 2017.
- Our current interventions are not being able to bridge this protein-calorie-micronutrient deficit.
- The NHHS-4 and NFHS-5 surveys reveal an acute dietary deficit among infants below two years, and considerable stunting and wasting of infants below six months.
- Unless this maternal/infant dietary deficit is addressed, we will not see rapid improvement in our nutritional indicators.
2) Information deficit at household level
- We do not have a national IEC (information, education and communication) programme that reaches targeted households to bring about the required behavioural change regarding some basic but critical facts.
- For example, IEC tells about the importance of balanced diets in low-income household budgets, proper maternal, child and adolescent nutrition and healthcare.
3) Inequitable market conditions
- The largest deficit, which is a major cause of dietary deficiency and India’s chronic malnutrition, pertains to inequitable market conditions.
- Such market conditions deny affordable and energy-fortified food to children, adolescents and adults in lower-income families.
- The market has stacks of expensive fortified energy food and beverages for higher income groups, but nothing affordable for low-income groups.
Raising the diet of our people from subsistence level to higher levels of nourishment by overcoming the triple deficit is the only way to improve the nutritional indicators of our population — amongst children, adolescents and adults.