30 AUG,2020 | MEDC
Nutrition security is India’s next major challenge given that Covid could leave behind a silent food crisis putting our demographic dividend at risk. Even if India manages to control the eventual Covid death toll, there is a real risk in the share of the country’s population growing up without adequate nutrition, resulting in an inevitable spike in wasting and stunting. That would eliminate all the gains made in the recent past fighting widespread malnutrition. Low nutritional and health level of the generations to come should be a wakeup call for a nation aspiring to call itself an economic superpower. The importance of early childhood under-nutrition among children younger than the age of two should be clearly understood. Children who do not receive adequate nutrition during this period have increased risks to experiencing lifelong damage, including poor physical and cognitive development, poor health, and even early death. However, malnutrition after the age of two is largely reversible. In this context, parents also need to understand that a balanced diet for a child is as important as the quantity and quality of food consumed.There are about a million entrants into the Indian workforce every month and 26 million new babies born in the country every year. Unless we are able to provide them adequate food and nutrition security, the demographic dividend could easily turn into a disaster. In the aftermath of the pandemic, an additional 100 million Indians are estimated to be particularly vulnerable to food distress. According to some surveys, 30% of urban India has run out of all savings due to the prolonged lockdown. This is only going to aggravate the looming nutrition crisis. The way out is to monitor food security closely in the months ahead.We need to reframe our policymaking processes to accommodate the fact that interventions promoting gender equality and women empowerment significantly improve nutrition and well-being of the entire household and community. Better access to resources allows women to devote more time to income-producing activities and to caring for their own needs as well as those of their families. When women control additional income they tend to spend more on food, health, clothing and education for their children, and thus ensure that the next generation evolves into a more healthy and productive workforce. It is trendy to talk about our country’s demographic dividend but what we really face is demographic dichotomy with malnutrition in Bharat and rising obesity in India. Unless we are able to bridge this gap and implement a more inclusive and sustainable growth model, nutritional security will continue to elude the majority of our population and imperil our long-term economic competitiveness.
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