The Hunger Paradox in India

The Hunger Paradox in India

News: To achieve the goal of zero hunger, India must immediately focus on India’s youngest children.

 As per fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data, 18% of children between ages 6-23 months, did not eat any food whatsoever in the 24 hours preceding the survey.

Important facts:
 According to the WHO, a minimum of 33% of the daily calorie intake is expected to come from food (at six months of age). The child obtains the remaining calories through “on-demand” breastfeeding.
 According to NFHS-5 Data, the zero-food prevalence was 30 % for infants aged 6-11 months, remains worryingly high at 13% among the 12-17 months old, and persists even among 18-23 months-old children at 8%
 More than 80% had not consumed any protein-rich foods for an entire day.
 Close to 40% did not eat any grains for an entire day, and six out of 10 children do not consume milk or dairy of any form every day.
 This data reflects worrying scenario concerning Food insecurity in India.

What are the challenges with NFHS surveys?
 The assessment of the extent of nutritional deprivation among young children in India has relied on measures such as stunting, wasting, compared to a reference population. These measures suggest overall deficiencies in the child’s environment, without any guidance on the specific nature of the deficiencies.
 Given their multifactorial nature with regard to what causes stunting or wasting among children, the specific nature of the deficiencies must be assessed. For this, assessments using household-level food insecurity modules developed by the FAO can be adapted.
 Zero-food underscores that achieving sufficiency in food production (the world’s leading country in milk production) does not necessarily mean attaining food security.

Way Forward:
 Multiple (not single) ministries/departments of the Government of India should take responsibility for designing, implementing and monitoring policies.
 A national effort to establish routine dietary and nutritional assessments for the entire population is the need of the hour.
 Measuring the availability, accessibility and affordability of nutritious food constitutes the foundation for any evidence-based policy to end hunger and improve nutritional security among Indians.
 To achieve the SDG 2 of zero hunger, India should consider a strategic initiative aimed at eliminating food insecurity by ensuring adequate-affordable-accessible-nutritionally diverse food, with a special and immediate focus on mothers and children. 

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