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The Way Out of Undernutrition

Hi Pam,

When I began discussing about a learning group on food security, I was only thinking of agriculture and farmers. But over this week, I began to realise that food security is a far bigger area than that: it also encompasses issues like availability and access, and most importantly, nutrition.

Now, I don't how many people will agree with me that nutrition also forms a part of food security. But to me, the circle of food security is incomplete if a huge chunk of a country's population continues to wallow in hunger, despite high agricultural productivity and foodgrain output.

A case in point is India. Despite being a booming economy and one of the food baskets of the world, nutrition deprivation is widespread among India's children.

According to India’s third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) of 2005-06, 20 per cent of Indian children under five-years-old are wasted due to acute undernutrition and 48 per cent are stunted due to chronic undernutrition.

An article by Dr. Karin Hulshof, UNICEF's India Representative, says that good nutrition early in life is a key input for human capital formation, a fundamental factor for sustainable and equitable economic growth. 

The article also emphasises the fact that undernourished children are more likely to suffer from serious infections and to die from common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea, pneumonia, and measles. Also, it says, those children who survive undernutrition are underperformers in school and less productive as adults.       

Most importantly, Dr Hulshof points out that there is a critical window of opportunity to intervene when mothers are pregnant and during children’s first two years of life. After that age, the window closes and the opportunity for the child is lost forever. After that age, the window closes and the opportunity for the child is lost forever.

Read the article to know more about 10 proven, high-impact interventions that can dramatically reduce undernutrition.