Beating hunger: Two-third of under 5 deaths in India occur due to malnutrition

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Published: September 20, 2019 3:56:34 AM

Policy steps such as Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, National Food Security Act, and the NNM targets were taken to reduce malnutrition and related deaths.

Beating hunger, India, malnutrition, National Nutrition Mission, NNM, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Mid day Meal Scheme, National Food Security Act, agriculture, WHO Global Nutrition 2025, WHO The disability-adjusted life years (DALY) rate due to malnutrition was the highest in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.

A report in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, shows two-thirds of under-5 deaths in 2017—706,000 out of 1.04 million—were due to malnutrition. The report finds that under-5 deaths from all causes have been falling—2,336 per 100,000 in 1990 to 801 per 100,000 in 2017. However, the deaths caused by malnutrition have shown a much smaller decline, from 70.4% in 1991 to 68.2% in 2017. The disability-adjusted life years (DALY) rate due to malnutrition was the highest in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. The report states that if these trends persist, then achieving UN SDG targets by 2030, WHO Global Nutrition 2025 targets, and National Nutrition Mission (NNM) 2022 targets will be near impossible.

Policy steps such as Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, National Food Security Act, and the NNM targets were taken to reduce malnutrition and related deaths. However, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating—one can gauge the quality of implementation of these schemes from the fact that child malnutrition continues to haunt India even today. The report notes that improvements across malnutrition indicators in India need an integrated nutrition policy which can effectively address the broader determinants of under-nutrition across life cycles. Such improvements must include clean drinking water, reduction of open defecation and promotion of proper sanitation, improvement in women’s status, food security, and promotion of nutrition sensitive agriculture. The right policies exist, as do the implementing bodies. What is needed is “political will and good governance, and strategic investments in a multi-sectoral approach”.

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