Govt must focus on nutrient security, apart from determinants such as maternal age and mother’s education, among others
It is our need to implement economic policies that generate meaningful jobs for our youth and ramifications of the saffronisation of India.
A report by researchers at Nabard and Icrier talks of how focusing on facets like maternal age, mother’s education, household wealth, etc, could have a significant bearing on the nutritional well-being of children and help achieve crucial Sustainable Development Goals. Despite India being self-sufficient in grains, it had 194.4 million undernourished in 2017-18. Globally, it has the largest number of undernourished people. Despite the world’s largest food subsidy programme, such deep and widespread malnourishment is evidence of the failure of the current policy approach. The researchers recommend that policy become more nutrition-sensitive, with diet diversification. To this end, it recommends steps such as roll-back of the PDS and instead adopting DBT to help households diversify their food basket, bio-fortification of cereals, etc.
One of the key takeaways from the report and experience of other developing nations, such as China and Brazil, is that investment in women’s education, especially higher education, has a direct correlation with the nutritional security of households. The report suggests that nutritional education programme must be incorporated into the curriculum while the distance between schools and households must be reduced to prevent female drop-out, etc. Also, higher education for women must be promoted via modes such as targeted scholarships. Another recommendation that needs immediate intervention is maternal health and child-care practices. A large number of underweight women—low BMI in the reproductive stage—is one of the leading factors of malnutrition in children. Apart from this inequitable access to antenatal care, early child-bearing, low institutional deliveries, and higher birth order are some of the areas that need immediate attention.