Nutrition should not be forgotten in the face of pandemic -Rahat Tasneem

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published Published on Aug 11, 2020   modified Modified on Aug 12, 2020

-Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability

Despite considerable progress made over the decade, India still carries the burden of undernutrition with 38.4, 21, and 35.8 per cent of children under five facing stunting, wasting, and underweight respectively, more than 50 per cent of children and women being anaemic, and 31.5 per cent of women having less than normal body mass index (BMI).

Interventions by the government to combat undernutrition are covered under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), National Health Mission (NHM),  and National Nutrition Mission (NNM) directly and PDS indirectly. Budget 2021 saw a mention of nutrition after more than half a decade with a provision of Rs. 35,600 crore for “nutrition-related programmes”. While it is not specified, which schemes will be covered under this allocation, five nutrition-specific schemes- Anganwadi Services (core ICDS), NNM, Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) and Scheme for Adolescent Girls also saw an increase in allocation by 15 per cent from the previous year revised budget (RE), along with 9 per cent increase in allocation of POSHAN Abhiyaan. However, the allocation for food subsidy reflecting the amount paid by the government to Food Corporation of India (FCI) for procurement of food grains to be provided under PDS saw a cut of Rs. 68,650 crore from the previous year budget estimates (BE).

As such, in a nation like India, where the prevalence of undernutrition is high and efforts are inconsistent, nutrition takes greater importance than ever. Not only adequate diet and nutrition is important for strengthening the immune system as emphasised by the WHO but also because the unexpected pandemic will cause irrevocable damage to the nutrition related progress made by the country by escalating both the immediate and underlying causes of nutrition.  Achieving national and global nutrition target 2030 will become much more difficult, as loss of livelihood, disrupted informal sector, and the resulting growth in poverty in the event of economic shutdown is bound to push back nutrition related progress both directly and indirectly.

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Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, 11 August, 2020,

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