Malnutrition in India – a detailed discussion of it’s causes, types, and solutions to avoid control malnutrition in India
India is said to be the Global Agricultural Powerhouse. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, India is one of the largest producers of milk, pulses, rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruits, spices, fish, poultry, livestock, and plantation crops. The land got blessed with diverse ecosystems, fertile soil, rivers, and optimum climatic conditions. As a result, this land is capable of producing a variety of crops throughout the seasons. Yet, India ranks in the top countries suffering from the problem of malnutrition. Let’s understand the various factors responsible for it, the first being India’s population size. Are the available resources not enough for the present population?
Historically, due to the abundance of food and being difficult to invade, India was a populated country since the beginning. Hence the current population of India is majorly a result of it and not only indiscipline or lack of family planning. But over the years, along with the increasing population size, science and technology have progressed as well. Hybrid and fortified crops make it possible to achieve nutritious high yields in the available space today. In spite of this, why our country India is suffering from malnutrition?
To put it simply, the issue is not a lack of resources but a lack of management. India produces enough food crops to suffice the hunger of every citizen. But the main issue here is the difficulty in making the food accessible to all. People dumping leftovers, and stale vegetables is a common sight in towns and cities. Farmers throw away their crops that were not sold or have gone bad. The reason behind this is food items are highly perishable, and other than using the edibles as fertilizer or for biogas, people generally don’t understand what else to do with it.
Introducing community refrigerators can be a small and effective step. Whereas, on a larger scale, the excess crops and vegetables from farmers, food factories, and restaurants can be made accessible with the help of a set process, preferably government policies will play a major role if a system is set in place to channel the food in a systematic manner so that it is accessible to the people in need.
Report demonstrating major types of malnutrition in India leading to deaths in Children under 5 years of age and Women falling in age range of 15 to 49 years.
The Central Government submitted a report in September which states that malnutrition and malnourishment is the cause of 69% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years. The nutritional status of a pregnant woman plays an important role. On average, mothers in India put on 5 kg of weight during pregnancy, whereas globally the average weight put on by a pregnant woman is 10 kg. Being underweight affects the nutritional status of the infant as well. It has been found that the most common deficiency among Indian girls is iron, calcium, and vitamin D. The nutritional status of a mother must be good before and during pregnancy to prevent their child from being malnourished. Gender inequality practiced in many middle-income and poorer families is also a reason for unhealthy mothers. When the girl child in the family is not provided with enough balanced diet, this girl being malnourished and underweight fails to conceive a healthy child in the future. Another important factor is the lack of knowledge. Mothers and family members of a newborn should know the importance of breastfeeding. The first 6-10 months of a newborn are critical deaths due to lack of breastfeeding or reduced breastfeeding.
The following data was collected from National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – 4 (2015-16), conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani submitted the following report on 26th July 2019 in Lok Sabha.
|S.No||State||Children under 5 years||Women (15-49 years)|
|Underweight||Stunting||Wasting||Anaemia||Chronic Energy Deficiency (%)||Anaemia|
|1||A& N Islands||21.6||23.3||18.9||49||13.1||65.7|
|8||Dadra & Nagar Haveli||38.9||41.7||15.9||84.6||28.5||79.5|
|9||Daman & Diu||26.7||23.4||27.6||73.8||12.9||58.9|
According to the report, Anemia (Iron/ hemoglobin deficiency) is responsible for more than 50% of deaths due to malnutrition.
Other preventive methods to reduce malnutrition in India
Educating the maximum number of people through schools, hospitals, and campaigns importance of a balanced diet, the components of a balanced diet, and breastfeeding is a must. Although there are several government policies and campaigns in the picture, the question is how effective are they? Do they need any modifications? Why the problem of malnutrition is not solved yet? Are they carried out successfully?
Malnutrition is also reported to be caused due to lack of sanitation. Various diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and typhoid caused by unhygienic conditions affect one’s intestines. It reduces the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrition from food. The practice of defecating in the open contaminates water resources. Consumption of such contaminated food and water is responsible for around 50% of malnutrition cases. It has become really important to educate the masses, not only once but continuously. Schools should be asked to focus on educating children about a balanced diet, and sanitation time and again. It is highly recommended by doctors to diagnose any associated illness while treating for malnutrition like renal disorders, diabetes, tuberculosis, etc for an effective treatment.
To sum it up, a proper management system to connect surplus food with the people in need will prevent food from being wasted and solve the hunger problem. Improvement in the effectiveness of existing government policies is extremely important, but along with it, awareness about those policies among the citizens is equally important.
In the end, education is the key. Even today, in many poor families, girls face gender inequality. In many villages, defecating outside is considered normal. The weight and nutritional status of pregnant women are given almost no importance. The government will provide food and treatment, and doctors will advise the would-be mothers. If malnutrition is to be uprooted from our country, the mindset of its people regarding nutrition and hygiene needs to change. One best way is to inculcate this information at an early age, beginning in one’s family and schools. Constant education and awareness drives for the masses about a balanced diet, the importance of breastfeeding, and hygiene will definitely reduce malnutrition in India to a large extent.