Failing on food: on child malnutrition and mid-day meals

  • IASbaba
  • October 1, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in Health and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Failing on food: on child malnutrition and mid-day meals

Context: PM POSHAN scheme was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs until 2025-26.

  • This comes at a critical time when real income declines and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the ability of families to ensure good nutrition. 

Malnutrition Issue

  • The findings in Phase I of the NFHS-5 for 22 States and UT in December 2020 were shocking: 
    • Childhood stunting rose in 13 States
    • High prevalence of anaemia among children and women
    • Wasting was a serious concern in 12 States.
  • The slippage over the previous survey period exposes the worsening case of malnutrition, threatening to deprive millions of children of a fully productive adult life. 

Significance of nutrition schemes (POSHAN, Mid-Day Meals) at this juncture

  • To address this hidden malnutrition crisis that has been accentuated by COVID-19 pandemic, mid day meals scheme becomes important.
  • The centrally supported hot meal programme in Government and Government-aided schools, covering 11.8 crore children, will be supplemented with nutritional elements in identified aspirational districts and areas with high anaemia. 
  • The revamped scheme, which is proposed to be extended to pre-primary children, provides for 
    • social audit 
    • creation of school nutritional gardens to source fresh produce 
    • involvement of farmer-producer organisations as providers
    • lays emphasis on local food traditions
  • The new features of the scheme clearly shows that government is trying to address malnutrition in comprehensive manner that provides benefits to other stakeholders(ex: farmers & local) involved in the food chain.

Way Ahead

  • Momentum towards eradicating malnutrition depends on annual budgetary outlays and government has to ensure that any malnutrition programme doesn’t face funding constraints.
  • The Government must demonstrate that Saksham Anganwadi-Mission POSHAN 2.0, which merges the POSHAN Abhiyan and schemes covering anganwadis, crèches and adolescent girls, is funded financially better than its previous component parts.
  • Government has to monitor the progress of its policies or schemes through measurable outcomes to ensure that they are effective.
  • On nutritional planning, the renewed plan should introduce a greater diversity of diets that compensates for micronutrient and protein deficiency.
  • Patchy food distribution mechanisms in many States should be rectified on urgent basis.
  • Food inflation needs to be addressed by authorities so that it doesn’t hurt poor people’s consumption pattern, which is already under stress due to decline in incomes caused by Pandemic.

Connecting the dots:

  • POSHAN Abhiyan
  • National Family Health Survey

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