Malnutrition is the antagonist in the lives of a major part of our country. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, it has accounted for more than 68% of the total deaths of children below the age of 5 years.
Besides mortality rates, it also causes some major and widespread diseases and disorders. The worst of it is seen in neonatal disorders and respiratory infections among children.
Here are a few reasons why children in India are victims of malnutrition:
Lack of financial resources:
Poverty is widespread and prevalent in large parts of the country. It has a direct correlation with the amount of nutrition that a child is able to receive. An estimated 276 million people live below the poverty line in India and are unable to afford basic necessities.
Seasonal migration is another major cause of people facing poverty, and by extension, malnutrition, in the rural areas.
Lack of Access to Food
Even though finances have a bigger role to play, lack of access to nutritious food also has a part in the web of malnutrition. Difficult access to basic needs, markets, or lack of means to reach the necessary food supply, especially when they are dependant on farming and traditional methods.
Unsafe drinking water
There are few things as damaging as the lack of proper hydration for the body. Lack of safe and pure drinking water is a major cause for malnutrition. Poor sanitation in rural areas leads to intake of infectious water and cause multiple diseases in the children.
Poor Health Conditions
Some illnesses lead to extreme malnutrition. Infections such as measles or diarrhoea, especially chronic, can lead a perfectly healthy child to be a victim of malnutrition.
Natural disasters and climate change often has devastating effects on certain areas and cause loss of livelihood, food supply and a spread of diseases. Children in such situations are unable to sustain a basic standard of living and often go hungry for days on end.
What government doing about malnutrition?
Eradicating hunger is one of the targets of the Globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons”.
To address the components of the SDG in India, the government has been taking measurable steps. The slow decline in malnutrition rates, including less intake of food, poverty and sanitation issues has made the cause a priority.
The government is trying to address these challenges by a comprehensive approach that takes the different sectors and dimensions of nutrition into account.
There are two pathways to tackling undernutrition, direct nutrition and indirect multi-sectoral approaches. Direct interventions, like breastfeeding, complementary feeding and handwashing practices complement the long-term sustainable multi-sectoral approach. The Government is committed to addressing the Nutritional Challenges of India.
The government is constantly working towards launching schemes and strategies towards eradicating hunger and improving the livelihood of children in such conditions.
Some of these schemes are as follows:
- National Rural Health Mission (2005-06)
- National Horticulture Mission (2005-06)
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (2005-06)
- Janani Suraksha Yojana (2006-07)
- Total Sanitation Campaign
- Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan
- Midday Meals (2008-09)
- Integrated Child Development Services [ICDS] Scheme (2008-09)
- National Rural Livelihood Mission (2010-11)
These have been expanded/universalised in the recent past and the results are likely to be visible soon. All these schemes have directly or indirectly the potential to address one or more aspects of nutrition.