High levels of maternal, child under nutrition continue to plague India

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Synopsis: Covid has heightened the risk of increasing malnutrition. Parts of progress made in the past may also get reversed because of Covid.


The article highlights the concerns of the head of nutrition, UNICEF India. He raised his concerns over women and children nutrition levels, especially during covid times.

What is the status of Malnutrition in India?

Comprehensive national Nutrition Survey: It highlights the emerging problems of overweight, obesity and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4: It indicates about 1/3rd of children under five years of age in India are stunted, a third of them are underweight and almost two out of ten children are nutritionally wasted. Many of these children suffer from multiple anthropometric deficits.

Although, the Government of India launched many schemes focusing on nutrition programmes like Poshan Abhiyan. With the ongoing Covid period, there is a risk of increasing malnutrition levels among the disadvantaged section.

How does Covid affect nutritional interventions in India?

Global research in 2020 on the effect of COVID-19 estimated about a 14.3% increase in wasting globally.  As the pandemic still continue, there is an increase in the challenge of food insecurities and nutrition. People tend to shift to cheaper food with low nutritional value, which will impact on cognitive development of children.

There is also disruption in Health and social services. Health workers are diverted from nutrition programmes. With the schools remain closed, there is a reduction in the supply of iron and folic acid tablets to children.

What is the biggest challenge?

With the focus presently on vaccinating the masses, there is pressure on the systems as the resources which earlier dedicated to health, nutrition and other social interventions are now diverted.

What should the government do?

Strong Leadership: It is required at all levels from national to district. It is essential to bring back focus to address food, income and nutritional security.

Universal coverage of essential evidence-based nutritional service: It should be ensured with a special focus on children below two years of age, pregnant women and adolescent girls.

Finance: India should ensure the delivery of high impact interventions, and additional financing will be required for ensuring food and nutritional security, especially for the vulnerable population groups.

Multisector Interventions: Health, nutrition and social protection schemes need to be delivered effectively. Special focus should be emphasized on migrant labourers and urban poor.

Indicator of Development: Nutrition should be retained as a key indicator for development.

Source: This post is based on the article “High levels of maternal, child under nutrition continue to plague India” published in The Hindu on 30th September 2021.

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