India’s Hunger Paradox
GS2 Health, Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Arising out of their Design & Implementation
- The urgent need is for a national initiative to implement regular dietary and nutritional assessments for the entire population.
Data on food consumption pattern:
Required calorie percentage
- The World Health Organization estimates that at six months old, 33 percent of a person’s daily caloric intake will come from food.
- At the age of one year, this percentage rises to 61 percent.
- The minimal number of calories that should be obtained through food is shown by the recommended percentages above.
- Data from the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019–21 show that 18% of mothers with children aged between 6 and 23 months stated that their kid had no food at all—also known as “zero-food”—in the 24 hours before to the survey.
- The prevalence of newborns without nourishment was 30% for those 6 to 11 months old, and it is still alarmingly high at 13% for those 12 to 17 months old.
- Remains at 8% among children aged 18 to 23 months.
- There are significant food group deprivations behind the alarming aggregate number that 60 lakh children in India between the ages of 6 and 23 months are projected to be food insecure. More than 80% had gone a whole day without eating anything with protein (referred to as “zero-protein”).
- Six out of ten youngsters do not regularly consume milk or any other dairy products (“zero-milk”), and over 40% of participants went an entire day without eating any grains (such as roti, rice, etc.).
- The above zero-food statistics underline that achieving sufficiency in the production of food does not necessarily imply achieving food security among the population, despite the fact that India has seen notable success in various production metrics for food items and recently overtook the United States as the world leader in milk production.
Issues & challenges:
Severe food insecurity
- At this crucial juncture in a child’s development, going without meals for a full day raises major questions about extreme food hardship.
- To date, measures of anthropometric failure, such as the proportion of children who are underweight for their height (wasting) or short for their age (stunting), have been used to estimate the severity of nutritional deprivation among young children in India.
- Without any information on the precise nature of the deficits, these anthropometric metrics are, at most, proxies suggesting plausible overall deficiencies in the child’s surroundings.
- Diet and nutrition have a significant impact on the prevalence of cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases in India, particularly among the country’s rapidly expanding “middle class.”
Access to nutritious food
- It is time to elevate food consumption among early children to the status of being of vital importance rather than being referred to as “complementary” in policies and guidelines dealing to maternal, infant, and young child nutrition.
- Access to enough and inexpensive nutrient-rich food is also crucial for mothers to successfully breastfeed their infants.
Need of improved assessments
- Assessments using household-level food insecurity modules created by the Food and Agriculture Organization can be modified to quantify the degree of food insecurity among Indian households in order to better understand food security for all communities in India.
- The cornerstone of any evidence-based policy to end hunger and enhance nutritional security among Indians is measuring the availability, accessibility, and affordability of nourishing food, especially for disadvantaged and vulnerable populations like young children.
Suggestions for improving existing policies:
- The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of “zero hunger,” which aims to eliminate hunger and promote year-round access to safe, nourishing, and sufficient food by 2030, is a challenge for India.
Mission Poshan 2.0
- Mission Targeting SDG 2 “zero hunger” and concentrating on food-based initiatives, such as its flagship supplementary nutrition programme service as required by the 2013 National Food Security Act, Poshan 2.0, the overarching flagship program for maternal and child nutrition, has advanced in the right direction.
- However, it is urgently necessary to create suitable food-based metrics in order to effectively monitor and evaluate Poshan 2.0’s performance.
- The zero-food metric offers a useful starting point in this regard.
- Poshan 2.0 can learn a lot from the Swachh Bharat Mission’s (SBM) success, which saw an increase in access to better toilets among Indian households from 48% to 70% between 2016 and 2021. This initiative also had a strong political commitment at the highest levels.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
- India should take into consideration a strategic initiative led by the Prime Minister’s Office aimed at eradicating food insecurity in India and ensuring affordable access to sufficient quantity and quality of nutritionally diverse food, with a special and immediate focus on India’s youngest children, in order to achieve the SDG of zero hunger and build on the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.
- Improving the currently implemented programs is the obvious solution to India’s complex nutritional issue.
- Greater participation of local government and community organizations in the planning and delivery of specialized nutrition interventions is necessary to improve the already-existing programs.
- Addressing child malnutrition must become the government apparatus’ top priority immediately and year-round.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] Fixing the currently implemented programs is the obvious solution to India’s complex nutritional issue. Examine