From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : POSHAN Abhiyan
Mains level : Paper 2- Analysing the contribution of POSHAN Abhiyan
POSHAN Abhiyan has completed 1000 days. The article analyses the challenges country face on the nutrition front which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 induced disruptions.
Severity and impact of malnutrition
- Malnourished children tend to fall short of their real potential — physically as well as mentally.
- That is because malnutrition leaves their bodies weaker and more susceptible to illnesses.
- 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.
- Without necessary nutrients, their brains do not develop to the fullest.
- Malnutrition places a burden heavy enough for India, to make it a top national priority.
- About half of all children under five years in the country were found to be stunted (too short) or wasted (too thin) for their height, estimated the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, carried out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with support of UNICEF three years ago.
POSHAN Abhiyan against the background Covid-19 disruption
- The Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) Abhiyaan in 2018, led to a holistic approach to tackle malnutrition.
- Under it, the government strengthened the delivery of essential nutrition interventions.
- COVID-19 is pushing millions into poverty making them vulnerable to malnutrition and food insecurities.
- Pandemic-prompted lockdowns disrupted essential services — such as supplementary feeding under anganwadi centres, mid-day meals, immunisation, and micro-nutrient supplementation which can exacerbate malnutrition.
- Leaders from academia, civil society, development partners, community advocates and the private sector have come together as part of ‘commitment to action’.
- The ‘commitment to action’ includes commitments around sustained leadership, dedicated finances, multi-sectoral approach and increased uninterrupted coverage of a vulnerable population under programmes enhancing nutrition.
- India already has some of the world’s biggest early childhood public intervention schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the mid-day meal programme, and Public Distribution System.
- India needs to ensure coverage of every single child and mother.
- To ensure this, the country needs to retain its financial commitments for nutrition schemes.
- Economic insecurities often force girls into early marriage, early motherhood, discontinue their schooling, and reduce institutional deliveries, cut access to micronutrient supplements, and nutritious food.
- Accelerating efforts to address these will be needed to stop the regression into the deeper recesses of malnutrition.
It takes time for nutrition interventions to yield dividends, but once those accrue, they can bring transformative generational shifts. Filling in the nutrition gaps will guarantee a level-playing field for all children and strengthen the foundations for the making of a future super-power.