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Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019

Published: 18th Jul, 2019

A new report, ‘Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019’, authored by the Government of India and the UNWFP has been released.


A new report, ‘Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019’, authored by the Government of India and the UNWFP has been released.

Status of Nutrition coverage in India

  • Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight) inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non-communicable diseases.
  • India has long been home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world. The highest levels of stunted and underweight children are found in Jharkand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Some progress has been made in reducing the extent of malnutrition.
  • United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), paints a picture of hunger and malnutrition amongst children in large pockets of India.
  • The report shows the poorest sections of society caught in a trap of poverty and malnutrition, which is being passed on from generation to generation.
    • Malnutrition: The proportion of children with chronic malnutrition decreased from 48% percent in 2005-06 to 38.4% in 2015-16.
    • Underweight: The percentage of underweight children decreased from 42.5% to 35.7% over the same period.
    • Anaemia: Anaemia in young children decreased from 69.5% to 58.5% during this period.
    • Stunting: In India over 40% of children from Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes are stunted. Close to 40% of children from the Other Backward Classes are stunted.

Lacunas in Government Initiatives

  • The government’s National Nutrition Mission (renamed as Poshan Abhiyaan) aims to -
    • reduce stunting ( height below the norm for age) by 2% a year
    • bring down the proportion of stunted children in the population to 25% by 2022
    • But even this modest target will require doubling the current annual rate of reduction in stunting.
    • The minutes of recent meetings of the Executive Committee of Poshan Abhiyaan do not inspire much confidence about whether this can be achieved.
    • A year after it was launched, State and Union Territory governments have only used 16% of the funds allocated to them.
    • Fortified rice and milk were to be introduced in one district per State by March this year, but officials in charge of public distribution had not yet got their act together.
    • The matter is under active consideration of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution”.

Impact of Malnutrition

  • Mothers who are hungry and malnourished produce children who are stunted, underweight and unlikely to develop to achieve their full human potential.
  • The effects of malnourishment in a small child are not merely physical.
  • A developing brain that is deprived of nutrients does not reach its full mental potential.
  • Under nutrition can affect cognitive development by causing direct structural damage to the brain and by impairing infant motor development.
  • This in turn affects the child’s ability to learn at school, leading to a lifetime of poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • These disadvantaged children are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes, high fertility, and provide poor care for their children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

About UN World Food Programme

  •  The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food assistance branch of the United Nations, established in 1961.
  • It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
  • The WFP strives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.
  • The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors.
  • WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS and derive Zero Hunger by 2030.

 Important Definitions

  •  Stunting: Calculation is based on height-for-age. It is is associated with an underdeveloped brain, poor learning capacity, and increased nutrition-related diseases.
  • Wasting: Calculated by weight-for-height. It is associated with decreased fat mass. Also known as wasting syndrome, it causes muscle and fat tissue to waste away.
  • Underweight: Calculated by the weight-for-age formula. It is a body weight considered to be too low to be healthy. It can reflect both stunting and wasting.

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