MALNUTRITION AND ITS FAR REACHING EFFECTS

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NITISH DEY : Malnutrition is the one of the curse that every developing country in the world is facing nowadays and India is not the exception to be the worst affected nation by this curse. According to the National Family Health Survey-4 data, it has been found that 38% children are stunted and 35.7% children are underweight in India and about 21% children under the age of five are wasted (low weight for height).According to the Global Hunger Index, 2018 it has been stated that atleast one in the five Indian children under the age of five are wasted which means they have extremely low weight for their height, reflecting acute under nutrition. The only country with a this kind of acute child wasting is the war-torn nation of South Sudan. India was ranked 103 out of 119 countries in the index where it has dropped three places from the last year’s ranking and India was categorized as the country with ‘serious’ hunger level.

The first criteria for the undernourishment is the insufficient caloric intake which reflects undernourishment. The next three indicators use the data for children under five: Child wasting (Low weight for height), reflecting acute under-nutrition; child stunting (Low height for age) reflecting chronic under-nutrition; and child mortality. India has shown improvement in the three indicators over the past years. The percentage of undernourished people in the population has dropped from 18.2% in the year 2000 to 14.8% in the year 2018 and child mortality rate reduced to 4.3% from 9.2% while child stunting has dropped to 38.4% from 54.2% over the same period. Whereas the prevalence of child wasting worsened over the past years and it stood at 17.1% in the year 2000 and increased to 20% in 2005. In the year 2018, it stood at 21%.

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Though there are several government schemes to improve the nutrition level of the children less than the age of five such as mid day meal scheme. But this schemes are not up to the mark to yield a desired result. The main reason for that still our government failed to come up with the solution that what food should be given to the children in the anganwadis to uplift their nutritional level. Eight years ago, when the malnutrition deaths occurs in the some districts of Maharashtra, a simple solution involving a protein-rich diet called Lapsi- a green millet mixture combined with water and milk-was given to the malnourished babies. Even in Jharkhand, dry rations such as oil, dal, wheat or rice were given to the mothers. So, the point is that the country should offer locally produced diverse foods to address the malnourishment. Under the UPA government, the minister in charge of that time would like to keep a watch on the quality of the meals served. She stressed on the packaged food for the purpose.

Government should take the model of Rwanda, the east African country to tackle the high level of malnutrition and stunting among the children. According to the statistic, India have the 25% of the world’s stunted children with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh topping the charts globally while only Bihar reported 48.3 percent of stunted children.

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Rewanda, which have the stunting level as high as 51 percent and brought it down to 38 percent in 2015. This is expected to drop to 32 percent by 2020. The country that witnessed a genocide that claimed one million of people 24 years ago, achieve the nutritional goals by a unique public-private partnership experiment Africa Improved Foods (AIF). The foundation of AIF stems from the thinking that the external food aid does  little to the economic development of the country. Predominantly an agrarian economy, Rwanda can progress only if there is a transformation in the agricultural system. The model is something that some Indian states can take a serious look at, particularly states where malnutrition and stunting is acute. Rewandan government started negotiations with some potential investors and this negotiations led to the setting up of a consortium with DSM, FMO, DFID and International Finance Corporation- the investment arm of the world bank as partners. This made a grand success when AIF Rewanda set up a world class food processing plant in the special economic zone on the outskirts of Rewandan capital Kigali where it produces food products meeting the nutritional demand of the different segment of the population such as children, pregnant mothers.

Globally, the level of hunger falls into the serious category despite improvement over the last two decades. Fifty countries will fail to reach the low hunger category by 2030 with the current rate of progress. For this reason, UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to end hunger by 2030, is at stake.

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