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EditorialsEditorial: Fight malnutrition, the enemy within

Editorial: Fight malnutrition, the enemy within

Published: 6th Dec 2021 11:58 pm | Updated: 7th Dec 2021 12:09 am

India may have strongly opposed the methodology used in the preparation of the recent Global Hunger Index (GHI) that ranked the country at 101 among the list of 116 but its own official data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) confirms the seriousness of the problem of malnutrition, particularly among children and women. It is an undeniable fact that the successive governments have failed to tackle the widespread problem of child malnutrition and that it is home to one-third of all malnourished children in the world. The fifth edition of the NFHS has brought to the fore the grim facts that should be a cause of worry for public health authorities. Anaemia among children and women continues to be a cause for concern, with more than half of them being found anaemic in 14 States and Union Territories. The NFHS provides information on population, health, and nutrition status across the country. While the Global Hunger Index revealed how India continues to lag behind its poorer neighbours, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, on multiple child nutrition indicators, the NFHS highlighted the issues related to malnutrition and how it is directly linked to child mortality. The survey pointed out that the percentage of underweight children has gone up in 11 of the 17 States. In Bihar and Gujarat, 40% of children under the age of five are underweight. Though several schemes have been initiated in the recent past to tackle the problem of malnutrition, the results have not been encouraging.

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Fragile health infrastructure, severe shortage of trained health professionals in many States, especially in rural, hilly and tribal areas, and lack of sufficient budgetary commitments have proved to be the major stumbling blocks. India has set a target to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. In the Union Budget 2021-22, ‘Mission Poshan 2.0’ was announced to improve nutritional outcomes in 112 aspirational districts. However, ‘Poshan 2.0’ is just a new name for the existing schemes like ICDS, Anganwadi services, Poshan Abhiyan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and National Creche Scheme. The Centre must consider the suggestion of experts that it should distribute the surplus stock of foodgrains to those who are not currently covered under the Public Distribution System (PDS) in view of rampant undernutrition. Though the Centre had allotted an additional 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, only 79.51 crore people with ration cards are eligible for this. There would be many others who may have fallen into poverty as a result of the pandemic and deserve cheaper foodgrains. As against the buffer norm of 307 lakh tonnes, the Central pool stock of rice and wheat now stands at 816 lakh tonnes. A part of this can be distributed among the people who do not have ration cards.


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