The Situation

 

Nutritional status is a measure of the health condition of an individual as affected primarily by the intake of food and utilization of nutrients.

"Health is not only the absence of disease but a state of complete mental and physical wellbeing in relation to the productivity and performance of an individual." - World Health Organization (WHO).

In spite of robust economic growth and being a major producer of food in the world, India is home to about 195 million undernourished persons, accounting for about 24% of the undernourished population in the world as estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in its publication -“The State of Food Insecurity in the World-2015”. Although India’s rank in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has improved over the years, it is still ranked 55 among 76 emerging economies.

Good nutritional status can only be realized and sustained when individuals within families and communities are food-secure. Food security has been defined as access by all people at all times to the food needed for a healthy life (FAO/WHO). Food security has three important dimensions: adequate availability of food supplies; assured access to sufficient food for all individuals; and its proper utilization to provide a proper and balanced diet.

The India State Hunger Index has been constructed by International Food Policy Research Institute using 3 indicators – prevalence of calorie under-nourishment, proportion of underweight and mortality rate in growing children. The Hunger Index computed for 17 states which account for more than 95% of India’s population revealed that all of them were significantly worse off than the “low” and “moderate” hunger categories and 12 of them were in the “alarming” category.

As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2005-2006, a very large proportion of India’s growing children suffer from malnutrition – 48 percent are stunted (height for age); 42.5 percent are underweight (weight for age) and 19.8 percent show wasting (weight for height).

The HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition Survey), conducted in 2010 by the Naandi Foundation in 6 states– Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh captured nutrition status of about 1 lakh growing children. Child malnutrition was found to be widespread across states and districts and starts early in life. Of the growing children - 42 percent are underweight, 59 percent are stunted and 11 percent show wasting. The extensive incidence of stunting prevailing in these states indicate the environmental, health and nutritional conditions and is considered to be a reliable indicator of long standing malnutrition.