As per NFHS – 4 [2015 – 16] the percentage of stunted children below 9 years and underweight are 38.4% to 35.2% respectively. It is the sign of chronic under nutrition, which if not addressed can become a health emergency in India.
Impact of malnourishment –
- High IMR
- Low weight birth
- Anaemic mothers
- Poor learning ability
- Prone to disasters
- Wastage of the demographic dividend
Despite programmes like ICDS, Midday meal scheme, National nutrition mission, the performance has been unsatisfactory. This can be analyzed as follows –
- The study by the University of East Asia – poor income and literate households suffer from malnutrition the most. E.g. Literates are abysmal in UP, Bihar.
- 53% of Indian women are anaemic. When they give birth, they cannot effectively breastfeed have causing malnourishment for the newborn.
- Oversize of the family leads to the availability of food per person.
- Due to school dropouts, children often cannot avail the mid-day meal schemes.
- 4.1. Also, the changed proposed in a minimum of WCP to make food by mixing packaged ingredients was not adopted.
- 4.2. The practice could stem adulteration and ensure nutrition quality.
- 4.3 Religious customs inhibit the consumption of wholesome food like the egg in them.
- Lack of sanitation, immunization, exposer to polluted water – leads to disease.
- 5.1. Increases out of the pocket expenditure
- 5.2. Ultimately purchasing capacity for food drylines.
- The labours often get fingers mismatched at PDS shops, or non-availability of Aadhaar etc. leads to non-consumption of essential foods.
However, India has reduced the stunting rate from 48% in 2006 to 38.4% now.
This can be supplemented with a multi-pronged approach. Food fortification is one of them.
- It facilitates the convergence of various nutrition programs having different features into one.
- It fills the vacuum of essential vitamins like Vitamin A and other minerals important for the growth of the body.
- Increasing the protein content can stimulate growth.
- It should be complemented by hot cooked meals which are considered more nutritious.
- It will improve the immunity levels to communicable diseases.
The national nutrition mission 2017 aims to cover different programs into one. It also aims to reduce stunting by 3% until 2023.
The initiative should be supported by the socio-behavioural change to bring improvement in literacy, income level, and better sanitation. This will help to address the menace of malnourishment in the long run.