Deaths of many children on the account of severe malnutrition in the interior pockets of our country in the recent times has once again reminded us as to where we have gone wrong in laying priorities. Nobody can accept an embarrassing situation where this country is patted on the back for its rapid strides in technology and where it is pitied upon for its abysmal failure to tackle malnutrition resulting in death of many. It pricks our conscience all the more when we realise that we have enough resources to tackle malnutrition.
Lack of access to Medicare and failure of child development scheme has created a frightening picture of malnutrition in the country. Government records reveal that annually 1000-2400 children die and infant mortality rate has been increasing from 40% to 59% in 2007-2008.
Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani children are the most underweight and malnourished. Although India has made impressive gains in raising grain production, the growth in output has been largely offset by that of population, leaving 2/3rd of the children malnourished.
Around 52% of women suffer from nutritional anaemia and close to 30% of new born and 65% of children under 5years are underweight – because of lack of appropriate micronutrients. In addition to the financially incalculable maternal and childhood deaths, malnutrition costs the country 10$ bn annually in terms of lost productivity, illness and death. Food fortification has played an important role in correcting malnutrition around the world.
The fundamental causes of malnutrition are to be found in the structure of the society. To be precise, it is the inability of the social system to provide good health and nutrition. Malnutrition is one of the many expressions of a deep-seated malaise in society, associated with poverty, lack of involvement, ignorance and widespread characteristics of under-development.
Nutrition cannot be separated from health, and any nutrition plan has to have a very healthy component. There is nothing called pure nutrition.
With vast scientific tools at our disposal, we should not allow malnutrition to wreak havoc among the vulnerable sections of our society, especially among women and children. The efforts made in India, especially the reported developments made in double fortification of food with iron and iodine, should be encouraged and supported to improve nutrition levels for the affected million.