Setting a proper diet plan

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Setting a proper diet plan


  1. The article discusses about the hunger and deprivation levels in India despite being an agrarian and one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Important Facts:

  1. Recently, India has been ranked at 103 out of 119 countries, with hunger levels categorised as “serious”, in the Global Hunger Index 2018.
  2. India’s child malnourishment:
  • India’s child malnourishment level is not only the highest in the world but varies considerably across States.
  • India is home to over 53.3 million stunted, 49.6 million underweight and 29.2 million wasted (low weight for height) children under five.
  • Data: As per the National Family Health Survey-2016, the proportion of stunted (low height for age) children under five is significantly higher (38.4%) than global (22.9%) averages.
  • The underweight (low weight for age) children rate (35.7%) is a lot higher than the global average (13.5%) too.
  1. Reasons:
  • Mindset of growth-oriented development:
  • Around two-thirds of stunted/underweight children are from 200 districts of both less developed and developed States.
  • Despite of the fact that the low income and Empowered-Action-Group (EAG) States face major challenges to improve malnutrition, the two EAG States, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, have performed better compared to Gujarat and Maharashtra where per capita income is almost double.
  • Odisha, which is a low income State, has a better network of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), public health facility/workforce per lakh population and educational attainment among women, which have translated into a better nutritional status when compared with Gujarat.
  • Further, tribals, rural, poor and illiterate mothers’ children are badly off in so-called developed States of Haryana, Gujarat and Punjab.
  • These groups are also affected in poorer States of U.P., Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Assuming agriculture as solution to nutrition problems:
  • Strikingly, malnutrition continues to be high in agricultural surplus States like Haryana (34% stunting and 29.5% underweight).
  • Recently, Madhya Pradesh has registered double-digit growth in food grain production, but acute malnutrition is still critical in most of its districts with a high proportion of underweight (42.8%) and stunted children (41.9%).
  1. Significance of diverse food in tackling malnutrition:
  • With the increase in diversity in food intake, measured through Food Intake Index using 19 food items in all 640 districts, malnutrition status declines.
  • The diversified food intake is very low in a majority of Indian districts; just 28% of children consumed over five items of the total 19 food items.
  • Only 12% of children are likely to be stunted and underweight in areas where diversity in food intake is high, while around 50% children are stunted if they consume less than three food items.
  • A majority of children across districts in Tamil Nadu consume a reasonably highly diversified food, leading to lower percentage of stunted/underweight children across districts.
  • Children in a majority of districts in West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala and Karnataka consume a mediocre level of food items and malnutrition is relatively lower than in Rajasthan, U.P., Jharkhand, M.P., Gujarat, Bihar and Haryana (children in many of their districts consume less diversified food).
  1. Steps towards reducing hunger burden:
  • An inclusive and holistic approach, including controlling/regulating food price, strengthening the public distribution system (PDS) and income support policies for making food cheaper are important steps in reducing the malnutrition problem.
  • The ICDS programme should be broadened by ensuring diversity in food items in worst-hit districts.
  • The launch of the National Nutrition Mission as a strategy to fight maternal and child malnutrition is a welcome step towards achieving the targets of underweight and stunted children under five years from 35.7% to 20.7% and from 38.4% to 25% respectively by 2022.
  1. Way Forward:
  • Faster economic growth has enormous benefits, but it is by no means sufficient and sustainable if millions of children remain undernourished, as it not only impacts early childhood health and imposes disease burden but also affects education, wages and productivity when they grow up, which will impact India’s growth.
  • So proper policy framework and implementation should go hand in hand with accountability to ensure reducing the hunger burden in India.
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