March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION IN INDIA: FAO REPORT ANALYSIS

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TAG: GS 3: AGRICULTURE

THE CONTEXT: Recently the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations released the “Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2023: Statistics and Trends” report.

EXPLANATION:

  • The report highlighted concerning statistics related to the affordability of healthy diets, malnutrition, and stunted growth in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Affordability of Healthy Diet

  • In 2021, 74.1% of Indians were unable to afford a healthy diet, showing a slight improvement from 2020’s 76.2%.
  • Pakistan and Bangladesh faced similar challenges, with 82.2% and 66.1% of their populations respectively encountering difficulties in accessing healthy food.
  • Rising food costs, when not matched by increased income, exacerbate the challenge of affordability, leading to more people unable to access nutritious meals.

Impact of COVID-19 and “5Fs” Crisis

  • The report highlighted the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the “5Fs” crisis (Food, Feed, Fuel, Fertilisers, and Finance) in the region.
  • The region still suffers from the aftermath of these crises, with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the world’s severe food insecurity, affecting more women than men.

Nutrition and Health

  • The region continues to struggle with undernourishment, with 370.7 million undernourished individuals, representing half of the global total.
  • Stunting, wasting, overweight issues among children under 5 years, and anaemia among women of reproductive age remain significant concerns.

Undernourishment and Food Insecurity

  • 6% of India’s population faces undernourishment, impacting health, nutrition, as well as economic and social well-being.
  • Southern Asia registers higher prevalence rates for severe food insecurity compared to other subregions, with Southern Asia also showing higher percentages for moderate or severe food insecurity since 2015.

Childhood Malnutrition

  • 7% of Indian children under five suffer from stunted growth, largely attributed to factors such as poor maternal health, inadequate infant feeding practices, and persistent infections.
  • India records the highest rate of wasting among children under five in the region at 18.7%, surpassing the WHO’s global nutrition target of less than 5%.

Maternal Health and Anaemia

  • Anaemia affects 53% of women aged 15 to 49 in India, posing health risks for both women and their offspring during pregnancy and childbirth.

Other Health Concerns

  • Obesity among adults stands at 1.6%, and the prevalence of low birthweight in India is notable at 27.4%.

Breastfeeding and Nutrition Improvements

  • India has shown improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates among infants (0–5 months) at 63.7%, higher than the global prevalence of 47.7%.
  • However, India faces challenges with high rates of low birthweight in the region, alongside Bangladesh and Nepal.

Conclusion

  • The FAO report underlines critical challenges in achieving nutritional goals, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies to address affordability, food security, and malnutrition issues in India and the broader region.
  • The statistics highlight the urgency for targeted interventions and policies to improve access to healthy diets and mitigate the detrimental effects of malnutrition on public health and well-being.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/741-of-indians-unable-to-afford-a-healthy-diet-fao-report/article67631605.ece

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