Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Nutritional security

Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their requirements and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Although nutritional security falls within the ambit of the broader food security paradigm, we have achieved food security but nutritional security is yet to be achieved. Nutritional security demands the intake of a wide range of foods that provide the essential, needed nutrients. We need diversity in our food intake in terms of cereals, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and other food items to provide us with all the essential nutrients like vitamins, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese required for the growth and development of our bodies. Thus food security has to be complimented with nutritional security if we are to take the benefits of food security to the fullest. The lack of adequate nutrients in our food intake adversely affects our health and the individual becomes prone to various types of deficiency diseases. The findings of National Health Policy had highlighted the negative impact of malnutrition on the productivity of population and its contribution to mortality rates in the country. The major nutritional problems are protein energy malnutrition (PEM), deficiency of vitamin A (VAD) and iron (IDA) and iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). India ranked 10th among countries with the highest number of underweight children and 17th for the highest number of stunted children in the world. Malnutrition affects chances of survival for children, increases their susceptibility to illness, reduces their ability to learn and makes them less productive in later life. It is estimated that malnutrition is a contributing factor in about one- third of all deaths of children under the age of 5. Such type of children ultimately becomes a burden to their families, to the society and ultimately the country as they are unable to perform to their full potential. This also takes a toll on the country’s economy and more input is needed to provide health services and create necessary infrastructure for them. Considering the importance of nutritional security, the Government of India has also started various programmes through its various agencies and institutes. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), as an apex body, has also taken the lead in ensuring nutritional security for all through its Krishi Vigyan Kendra network located in almost every district of the country. Special emphasis is being laid on growing kids, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers through various programmes. Take bio-fortification for instance. It is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding or modern biotechnology. It differs from conventional fortification in that bio-fortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops. In case of iron, World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that biofortification could help curing the 2 billion people suffering from iron deficiency-induced anaemia. We also have POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission, which is a Government of India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. The POSHAN Abhiyaan directs the attention of the country towards malnutrition issue and addresses it in a mission-mode. KVKs along with the line Departments organize special awareness and training programmes for women and in-service functionaries of the States to promote the concept of Nutritional Thali, a thali containing the required food items to provide us with the adequate nutrients. Focusing on organic food products, besides organic cereals, fruits and vegetables; organic milk is another achievement in ensuring nutritional security of all. Organic milk taken from the livestock fed on a totally organic feed contains all the essential minerals needed for development of bones and joints. It is free of any harmful pesticides, synthetic hormones and antibiotics due to the farming standards that have been adhered to. Indeed the present era is witnessing a greater thrust on ensuring nutritional security for all and for this many interventions have been made along with the necessary policy support. The only mismatch is their awareness, proper implementation and execution.