India is a contributor of close to one third of the world’s burden of under nutrition. With the given population of the country and observing the ever-increasing rise in the same it has become imperative to invest in actions to reduce all forms of malnutrition not just for India itself but also for the attainment of global targets. Nutrition is the key to achieve sustainable development goals. Nearly, 12 off the 17 SDGs include indicators that are relevant for nutrition. Sustainable eating is immensely important to pull up a fight against malnutrition, hidden hunger and diet related non communicable diseases.
In 2012, the World Health Organisation identified six global nutrition targets to be achieved by 2025. The 2021 Global Nutrition Report revealed that five out of these six global maternal, infant and young children nutrition targets to address stunting, wasting, anaemia, low birth weight and childhood obesity are off track. (A metric called the average annual rate of reduction (AARR) is used to describe and assess progress against each target. There are two types of AARR: the required AARR represents the value needed for a country to achieve the global target from the baseline year to 2025; the current AARR reflects a country’s actual achievement based on the available data between the baseline year and the most recent year. The current prevalence, required AARR and current AARR are used to determine whether the country under assessment is on or off track for each indicator.)
India is ‘on course’ in meeting the target for stunting but, 34.7% of children under 5 years of age are still impacted, much higher than the Asian average of 21.8%. In comparison to the Asian average (9.1%), India has 17.3% stunted children under 5 years of age. Meanwhile, India reported some progress in ensuring exclusive breastfeeding with 58.0% of infants aged 0 to 5 months being exclusively breastfed. Unfortunately, there is not enough data to assess India’s progress towards achieving the low-birth-weight target or prevalence. According to the GNR 2021 data, an estimated 6.2% adult (aged 18 and above) women and 3.2% adult men in India are living with obesity. Meanwhile, diabetes is estimated to affect 9% of adult women and 10.2% of adult men.
The report also reports a comparison of the country’s dietary intakes of key foods and nutrients in comparison to the set minimum and maximum recommended targets as determined by the EAT-Lancet commission. It is revealed that the Indian average diet significantly lacks in fruits, legumes, nuts, fish, and dairy that are crucial for optimum growth and development. India has significantly high levels of food insecurity, which increased by nearly 4% in the period between 2014 and 2019. This even worsened during the pandemic when the entire food distribution system was disrupted. The country’s Public Distribution System (PDS) too faces numerous inherent challenges mainly pertaining to lack of transparency, forged ration cards, weak redressal system and leakages of food grains (Ghabru, Devi, & Rathod, 2017).
Filling up the gaps in the nutritional composition of the daily meal should be India’s first step in dealing with the triple burden of malnutrition, nutrition disparity, and food insecurity. By including nutrient-dense, climate-smart crops, it may be possible to reduce nutritional deficiencies plaguing the country as of now. Also, the need of the hour is to involve all stakeholders in policy to be able to critically transform the current food system.
OFF TRACK – SOME PROGRESS
OFF TRACK – NO PROGRESS OR WORSENING
AARR ≥ required AARR* or level <5%
AARR < required
AARR < required
AARR ≥5.2** or level <5%
AARR <5.2 but ≥0.5
Low birth weight
AARR ≥2.74+ or level <5%
AARR <2.74 but ≥0.5
Not exclusively breastfed
AARR ≥2.74++ or level <30%
AARR <2.74 but ≥0.8
Level ≥5% but AARR ≥2.0
Level ≥5% and AARR <2.0