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70% Indians can’t afford healthy diet: UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation

As for adult nutrition, again, India fared poorly on the prevalence of anaemia amongst women (indicating women’s health as well as female morbidity and mortality) (53%), the highest amongst its neighbours.

70% Indians can’t afford healthy diet: UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation
1. Restaurant foods are often loaded with fats, salt, sugar and other additives. (Representative image)

By Anvitiii Rai

India had one of the highest percentage of people who can’t afford a healthy diet at 70.5%, according to a study by the United Nations’s Food and Agricultural Organisation.

As for the health indicators among the population groups, India fared somewhat satisfactorily for the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants aged less than 5 months old at 58% as of 2020. For children, however, the picture was alarming. The prevalence of child wasting (insufficient nutrient intake) is highest in India among its neighbours at 17.3% as of 2020, while the prevalence of stunting (being underdeveloped for one’s age) (30.9%) was only second to Pakistan (36.7), showing that child nutrition remains a prevalent issue in India.

As for adult nutrition, again, India fared poorly on the prevalence of anaemia amongst women (indicating women’s health as well as female morbidity and mortality) (53%), the highest amongst its neighbours.

While the world was affected by the pandemic overall and several measures are required to reverse the effect, it is clear by seeing India’s performance that strict actions are needed not only to provide a nutritious diet to the most vulnerable sections of the population, but to also make it affordable.

Among the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are ending “hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition” by 2030. To measure the progress of the same, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) publishes The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report annually, and this year’s edition does not bode well for the world as well.

The report explicitly states that the world is moving backwards with regard to the SDGs. While the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be discounted, the report also points out that the onus lies on the “limited coverage and duration of the social protection measures”.

The report, as its main indicators, took into account the state of nutrition among different groups in the population as well as the cost of a healthy diet vis-à-vis the percentage of people who were able to afford it. Almost all the indicators were impacted due to the pandemic globally—for example, the number of people who could not afford a healthy diet increased by 112 million from 2019 to be 3 billion in 2021, with the increase mainly driven by Asia, where the number increased by 78 million.

Compared with the global standard ($3.537), Asia had a slightly higher cost of a healthy diet for a person per day ($3.715). India, for its part, boasts the lowest cost of the same amongst its neighbours ($2.970). But that’s only a small consolation.

India had one of the highest percentage of people who could not afford a healthy diet at 70.5%, according to a study by the United Nations’s Food and Agricultural Organisation.

As for the health indicators among the population groups, India fared somewhat satisfactorily for the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants aged less than 5 months old at 58% as of 2020. For children, however, the picture was alarming. The prevalence of child wasting (insufficient nutrient intake) is highest in India among its neighbours at 17.3% as of 2020, while the prevalence of stunting (being underdeveloped for one’s age) (30.9%) was only second to Pakistan (36.7), showing that child nutrition remains a prevalent issue in India. As for adult nutrition, again, India fared poorly on the prevalence of anaemia amongst women (indicating women’s health as well as female morbidity and mortality) (53%), the highest amongst its neighbours.

While the world was affected by the pandemic overall and several measures are required to reverse the effect, it is clear by seeing India’s performance that strict actions are needed not only to provide a nutritious diet to the most vulnerable sections of the population, but to also make it affordable.

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