Acknowledging the challenges posed by the pandemic in ensuring access to nutritious food, Mr Bishow Parajuli, World Food Programme Representative in India, has hailed the efforts of the Indian government to ensure nutrition through distribution systems and focus on food fortification. Speaking at the second edition of mega Bharat Nutrition Week conclave, organised by the Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council, a premier think tank promoting health for all, Mr Parajuli also outlined the path ahead for better coverage.
“India has made good strides over the years, starting from PDS that covers 800 million people and doubled the coverage during the pandemic. It is an excellent effort to avoid faltering and challenge malnutrition among poor households who have lost income opportunities during COVID-19. Together with ICDS and mid-day meals that cover about 100 million school children, India’s programmes cover about a billion people. But the challenges remain – it is alarming to see 10 out of 22 states in the current National Family Health Survey pointing at increased prevalence of malnutrition. Nutrition is an important agenda as we can see from government policies and programmes to address the concern of nutrition upfront,” says Mr Bishow Parajuli, World Food Programme Representative in India.
Highlighting that the body is working with the governments at both central and state levels, Mr Parajuli says, “We are working together promoting take-home ration for children, fortification of food, innovative practices, and capacity building in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Odisha. We have set up small units of supplementary food in Uttar Pradesh run by women self-help groups that supply locally produced food to anganwadis – a move replicated by the state government.”
He added that hunger has almost doubled across the world and it can cause significant economic loss. “Undernutrition and malnutrition are estimated to cause a loss of 2.1 trillion dollars to the global economy and nearly 8 per cent reduction in national economic growth. Studies have shown that countries that failed to invest in the wellbeing of women and children lose billions of dollars to lower economic productivity and higher health costs. The 6 ways in which India can sustain the momentum are: it must continue to safeguard and promote access to nutrition, safe and affordable regular diet with uniformity across states; invest in first 100 days; continue work on evidence for early detection and treatment of child wasting; continue school meals; include those missed out in which measures like ‘one nation one ration card’ may help the migrants; and ensure health, sanitation and incomes support to mothers,” added Mr Parajuli.