A gendered view of India's nutrition strategy -Phalasha Nagpal

-The Hindu Business Line

The rise in female malnutrition can be countered by integrating a women-focussed initiative with the National Nutrition Mission

India is home to the largest proportion of malnourished children in the world, with widespread prevalence of stunting, wasting and people being underweight. That said, a more pertinent factor is that malnutrition is the most significant contributor of the under-five mortality in India. According to the United Nations, India has the highest absolute number of under-five and neonatal deaths in the world. Despite its progress in reducing child mortality, the benefits thereof have not been equally shared by the male and female child. In contrast to the global trends, child mortality in India is higher for females than that for males.

India’s under-five mortality rates for males and females, which stand at 38.4 and 40.4 respectively, tell the same story. This shows that girls have a higher probability of dying before attaining the age of five years than boys. Through backward deduction, this means that effects of malnutrition effects are more pronounced for girls than boys. And if that stands, what then explains this anomaly? The root cause of such male-female differentials is the socio-cultural mindset of the people and widespread prevalence of gender discrimination.

Prevalent bias

Understandably, reducing the prevalence of malnutrition among girls holds the key to reducing the burden of female under-five deaths. Research shows that the girl child experiences mistreatment and neglect from the time of birth and thereafter. Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen document that girls are breast-fed for a shorter period of time than boys.

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The Hindu, 17 September, 2019, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/a-gendered-view-of-indias-nutrition-strategy/article29433201.ece?fbclid=IwAR1nbWXEqmSUIl5QuJBD6k3Are5nYlEPIXVN7GWrWaj7SE03kY

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