Malnutrition is a serious problem in a third world developing country, like India. Malnutrition does not mean that the child is receiving only inadequate supplements of nutrients in his daily diet. According to WHO, scientifically malnutrition may be defined as deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions. One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals). The other is overweight, obesity, and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer).
In India, group one ‘undernutrition’ prevails more than the overweight. According to UNICEF, India stood at the 10th spot among countries with the highest number of underweight children, and at the 17th spot for the highest number of stunted children in the world. A detailed study says that about one-third of the total death of children at the age or under 5 is due to malnutrition. Malnutrition severely affects the chances of survival, increases their proneness to illness, reduces their adequate ability to learn, and makes them less productive in later life.
It does not mean that malnutrition prevails only in children, it is quite common among adults also. According to WHO, among adults, 23% of women and 20% of men are considered to be the victim of undernourishment while on the other hand 21% of women and 19% of men are overweight or obese in India. So, India has to fight both under-nutrition and over-nutrition simultaneously among adults.
To curb the effect of malnutrition among children and adults, the Government of India has taken multiple numbers of policies from time to time though focusing primarily on children which includes Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the National Health Mission, the Janani Suraksha Yojana, the Matritva Sahyog Yojana, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the National Food Security Mission, and many more. Despite developing multiple policies and implementing these, the problem of malnutrition is predominantly existing and has compelled the government to come up with more modified and fruitful ideas and policies which resulted in the framing of The National Nutrition Strategy. This strategy,
- It aims to reduce all forms of malnutrition by 2030, focusing mainly on the most vulnerable and critical age groups. The Strategy also aims to assist in achieving the targets identified as part of the Sustainable Development Goals related to nutrition and health.
- Aims to launch a National Nutrition Mission, similar to the National Health Mission which will enable the integration of nutrition-related interventions cutting across sectors like women and child development, health, food, public distribution, sanitation, drinking water, and rural development.
- A decentralised approach to be followed with more flexibility while making decisions and implementing at state, district, and local levels. Further, it will enable decentralised planning and local innovation along with accountability for nutrition outcomes.
- Aims to launch interventions with a focus on improving healthcare and nutrition among children. These interventions will primarily include: (i) promotion of breastfeeding for the first six months after birth, (ii) universal access to infant and young child care (including ICDS and crèches), (iii) enhanced care, referrals, and management of severely undernourished and sick children, (iv) bi-annual vitamin A supplements for children in the age group of 9 months to 5 years, and (v) micro-nutrient supplements and bi-annual de-worming for children.
- Planned to improve maternal care and nutrition which includes (a) supplementary nutritional support during pregnancy and lactation, (b) health and nutrition counseling, (c) adequate consumption of iodized salt and screening of severe anemia, and (d) institutional childbirth, lactation management, and improved post-natal care.
- Governance reforms anticipated in the Strategy which enrolls (a) convergence of state and district implementation plans for ICDS, NHM and Swachh Bharat, (b) focus on the most vulnerable communities in districts with the highest levels of child malnutrition, and (c) service delivery models based on evidence of impact.
Implementing to the point as it has been strategised, India may see a better future with very less number of affected persons with malnutrition.