GS 1 INDIAN SOCIETY-Population and associated issues

GS 2 GOVERNANCE-Issues relating to development and management Services relating to Health


       Malnutrition occurs when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients. Causes include a poor diet, digestive conditions or another disease.Symptoms:fatigue, dizziness and weight loss.

Untreated malnutrition can cause physical or mental disability.There are 4 broad sub-forms of undernutrition:

  • wasting
  • stunting
  • underweight
  • deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.

Data as per WHO:

  • 1.9 billion adults-overweight or obese, while 462 million-underweight.
  • 47 million under 5 years are wasted, 14.3 million are severely wasted.
  • 144 million under 5 are stunted,while 38.3 million are overweight or obese.

Around 45% of deaths among under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.

Status in India:

  • 189.2 million (28%)-undernourished.
  • 40.3 million(28%)-under 5- stunted.
  • 20.1 million(43%-under 5- wasted.
  • As a proportion of India’s population, around 14% were undernourished during 2017-19.(Brazil less than 2.5%)

(As per The state of Food Security and Nutrition in the World).

  • proportion of underweight and stunted children was as high as 35.8% and 38.4% respectively(.National Family Health Survey (NFHS, 2015-16))
  • Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Gujarat-the proportion of underweight children was more than 40 percent.


According to NFHS sample survey:-

  • Mother’s education, particularly higher education-strongest inverse association with under-nutrition.(13.7% in India)
  • The wealth index-access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water.
  • Diet-role of agricultural policies and diet diversification becomes important.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding and the introduction of complementary foods and a diversified diet after the first six months-for growth and cognitive development.
  • Access and utilisation of prenatal and postnatal health care services.

Current Measures Adopted:

  • National Nutrition Mission/POSHAN Abhiyan:
    • aims to reduce stunting, underweight and low birth weight each by 2%per annum.
    • anaemia among children, adolescent girls and women, each by 3%per annum by 2022.
  • The Harvest Plus programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) can work with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to grow new varieties of nutrient-rich staple food crops-
    • iron and zinc biofortified pearl millet
    • zinc-bio fortified rice & wheat
    • iron biofortified beans.

Way Forward

  • Promote women’s higher education (providing liberal scholarships,bicycle distribution among girls.)
  • WASH initiatives-safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene(Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-rural sanitation:from 38.7% in 2014 to 100% in 2019.Urban:99%.)
  • Need to provide a more diversified food basket– including 
    • coarse grains
    • millets
    • pulses
    • bio-fortified staples

(Food-based safety nets in India are biased in favour of staples(rice and wheat))

  • Anganwadi workers and community participation-child-caring practices and antenatal care for mother and children.
  • comprehensive awareness programmes.


       The target of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030 is a target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) of Zero Hunger.The Government has initiated “Poshan Maah” to contribute towards a malnutrition free India by 2030.       The government needs to address the multi-dimensional determinants of malnutrition on an urgent basis.

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