India’s Malnutrition Challenge

  Aug 12, 2020

India’s Malnutrition Challenge

Q. What is Malnutrition?

A. It refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of nutrients. It includes both under and over nutrition.

Malnutrition manifests itself in the form of: Stunting low height for age; Wasting low weight compare to height; Underweight- low weight for age.

Q. What is Global Nutrition Report?

A. It is an assessment of the state of global nutrition conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative, consisting of a Stakeholder Group, Independent Expert Group and Report Secretariat. 

Q. What is present Status in India and targets according to Global Nutrition Target-2025?

Q. Why addressing Malnutrition is important for India?

1. Constitutional Obligation: Article 21 and 47 of the Constitution obliges the Government of India to take appropriate measures to ensure a dignified life with adequate nutrition for all its citizens.

2. Sustainable Development Goal: India needs to fulfil its international commitments under SDGs. SDG 2 aims to ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”

3. Addressing Health Risks: Health risks are associated with both under and overnutrition.

a. Under-n:utrition According to a report by National Institute of Nutrition, malnutrition was the predominant risk factor for death in children younger than five in every state of India in 2017.

b. Over-nutrition: Obesity causes non-communicable disease such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and can lead to disability and premature death.

According to India State Level Disease Burden Report, in 2016, deaths due to noncommunicable disease increased from 37.9% to 61.8% between 1990 and 2016.

4. Economic loss: According a 2019 Lancet study, 17.3% of India’s productive years of life (disability-adjusted life years or DALYs) were lost in 2018 due to malnutrition-caused ill-health, disability or early death. Further, a World Bank estimate indicates that reducing stunting can raise India’s GDP by 4-11%

5. Poor Learning Outcomes: Malnutrition lead children to have problems with concentration and memory and can even impair their cognitive development. This in turn results in poor learning outcomes among children.

6. Women Empowerment: Addressing women malnutrition is important for woman empowerment. Healthy women can generate income, ensure their families’ nutrition, and have healthy children, thus ensuring overall socio-economic development.

Q. Which all are factors contributing to Malnutrition in India?

Nutritional Factors:

1. Hidden Hunger: It is a type of under-nutrition caused by micronutrient deficiency. It occurs due to eating food that is cheap and filling but deficient in essential vitamins and micronutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins etc. According to UNICEF’s report, 'Adolescents, Diets and Nutrition: Growing Well in a Changing World' 80% adolescents in India suffer from "hidden hunger"

2. Cereal-based Diet: dominate dietary habits in India especially rice and wheat consumption.

The large decline in coarse cereal consumption rich in iron content without replacement by iron-rich foods has led to increasing iron deficiency and anaemia.

3. Excess Calorie intake: According to a Lancet study, Indians consume between 200 and 300 Kcal every day from junk food and other sources deemed harmful.

Non-Nutritional Factors:

1. Poverty and underemployment/unemployment: 21.9% of the population being poor in India (Tendulkar report), restricts their access to nutritious food like fruits, vegetables, milk, etc.

2. Social status and nutrition accessibility: An underweight child in India are more likely to belong to a disadvantaged community. For example, a study by National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in 2017 found that 32-33% of scheduled caste/tribe boys under five years of age are underweight, compared to 21% in the general population.

3. Causes of Malnutrition among women: Gender bias, lack of reproductive rights, illiteracy are major contributing factors in malnutrition among women.

4. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Poor sanitary conditions caused by open defecation and other issues leads to the incidence of diarrheal diseases which make children susceptible to stunting.