State of Nutrition : NFHS-5 Report – UPSC GS2

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released data fact sheets for 22 States and Union Territories (UTs) based on the findings of Phase I of the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5).
Findings: (in comparison to NFHS-4)
  • Prevalence of severe acute malnutrition: Increased in 16 states/UTs, only two big states (Karnataka and Kerala) have shown some marginal improvements.
  • Percentage of Underweight children (under five): increased in 16 out of 22 states.
  • Anaemia: increased among children and adult women in most States.
  • Adult malnutrition (BMI of less than 18.5kg/m2): Increased in many states.
  • Overweight/obesity prevalence among children and adults: Most States/UTs saw an increase.
  • Childhood stunting: An indicator of chronic undernutrition and considered a sensitive indicator of overall well-being, increased in 13 of the 22 States/UTs.
    • The World Health Organization calls stunting “a marker of inequalities in human development”.
  • Positive trends: In determinants of malnutrition such as access to sanitation, clean cooking fuels and women’s status – a reduction in spousal violence and greater access of women to bank accounts.
Government’s efforts to contain malnutrition:
  • Social protection schemes and public programmes:
    • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
    • Public Distribution System
    • Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)
    • Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
  • Poshan Abhiyaan(2017): aimed at achieving 2% reduction in childhood stunting per year.
  • Associated issues:
    • Underfunding and underutilization of funds: Only about 32.5% of the funds released for Poshan Abhiyaan from 2017-18 onwards had been utilised.
    • Slowdown in economic growth, stagnant rural wages and high levels of unemployment
    • Pandemic and lockdown-induced economic distress.
    • Inadequacy of diets in India both in terms of quality and quantity: ‘Hunger Watch’ survey shows high levels of food insecurity and decline in food consumption, especially among the poor.
Way forward:
  • Direct interventions: such as supplementary nutrition (of good quality including eggs, fruits, etc.), growth monitoring, and behaviour change communication through the ICDS and school meals must be strengthened and given more resources.
  • Universal maternity entitlements and child care services: Enabling exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate infant and young child feeding as well as towards recognising women’s unpaid work burdens.
  • Linkages between agriculture and nutrition: Both through what foods are produced and available as well as what kinds of livelihoods are generated in farming sector.
  • Focus on basic determinants of malnutrition: like household food security, access to basic health services and equitable gender relations.
Conclusion: An employment-centred growth strategy which includes universal provision of basic services for education, health, food and social security is imperative to ensure nutritional security and sustainable development of India.

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