Prospects for better nutrition in India


Being home to 31% of the world’s children who are stunted and 42% of those who are underweight, and with many children and adults affected by micronutrient deficiencies, India is facing huge challenges in the field of nutrition. Even though the Indian Government is investing vast amounts of money into programs that aim to enhance food security, health and nutrition (the Integrated Child Development Services program alone costs 3 billion USD per year), overall impact has been rather disappointing. However, there are some bright spots on the horizon.

The recent District Level Health Surveys (DLHS-4) do show significant progress, i.e. a reduction in stunting of around 15% over the past 6 years in a few states for which preliminary results are available. The reasons for this reduction are not unambiguous and appear to include state government commitment, focus on the ‘window of opportunity’, improved status and education of women, a lowered fertility rate, and combinations of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions.

Apart from the government many other agencies play a role in driving improvements in nutrition. Since 2006 the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has worked with a range of partners to improve access to nutritious foods for large parts of the population, through public and private delivery channels. This supplement presents a selection of these activities, ranging from a capacity assessment of frontline workers in the ICDS system, large scale staple food fortification, salt iodization, fortification of mid-day meals for school children and decentralized complementary food production.

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