India is one of the fastest growing economies in 2017, yet it has the highest number of children suffering from malnutrition, according to World Bank data. Forty-four percent of the children below the age of five are underweight, 72 percent of the infants have anemia and 194.6 million people are undernourished.
A quarter of undernourished people in the world live in India. India’s dependence on carbohydrates with low protein in their diet is the main cause of malnutrition, according to Nobel Prize winner for economics Angus Deaton. Poor sanitation has triggered infection-borne deficiencies in nutrients.
According to United Nation estimates, 2.1 million children die in India every year before reaching the age of five and four die every minute. One thousand children die every day because of diarrhea. Forty-eight million children under the age of five are stunted. According to a study, malnutrition in India could cost the economy $46 billion by 2030. Five states and 50 percent of the villages account for 80 percent of the malnutrition.
Reasons for this challenge stem from a lack of an institutional framework to address malnutrition, a lack of monitoring and accountability in publicly funded nutrition programs and a lack of convergence among multiple governments on an approach to address this issue.
Overcoming malnutrition in India would require a multifaceted approach including education for girls, availability of safe drinking water and vaccinations and public interventions focusing on socioeconomic development. More research is required in this area to tackle this challenge.
Political commitment is essential for a well-planned and long-term project that can enhance development. Nutritional planning focused on improving production and distribution of food is needed to reach the grassroots of the society. Making food available through public distribution systems and increasing the purchasing power of people in low-income countries is crucial. Nutrition education and early detection of malnutrition are factors which can empower society against this challenge.
Although India has taken many programs including improving salt iodization, improving breastfeeding and improving large-scale food fortification, the country needs to make fighting malnutrition a national priority to overcome this tremendous challenge.
– Aishwarya Bansal