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.




Hi Vijay

Thought provoking article. Shocking picture. Interesting list of possible interventions. (Though I'm confused by the first six months suggestion and breast milk. I wonder do they really mean no solids for that long - or just that the only milk given should be breast milk. Ages since I did baby things - but thought rusks and sloppy food started sooner than six months - but that's a side issue.)

I agree with your point that food security is much more than just agriculture and farmers. Interesting to decide just what does need to be included if you are going to extend the boundary out to cover nutrition.

BTW - At Fantusam Foundation they got into a nutrition programme when the Micro-Finance repayments dropped and they discovered it was due to increased illness/funeral costs because of HIV/AIDS.  When I was at Fantsuam I was able to attend some training sessions covering nutrition and other hearlth issues run by the local doctor (Doctor Chris, or maybe Kris, I haven't seen his name written). Anyhow he explained to me that if you are are given drugs to combat HIV/AIDS but your nutririton level is poor the drugs make you  worse rather than better.

I'll be interested to see how your ideas progress on this.