All posts by Cather Zhang

(Lack of) Food for Thought

        Even though it is the most populous democratic country with an impressive growth in GDP, India has a huge malnutrition issue with 14.5 percent of its population undernourished. To effectively improve the situation, both long- and short-term actions and solutions should be taken. 

        Among the total population of India, pregnant women and children under the age of five are critical age groups influenced by malnutrition. The effects of diseases and disorders resulting from child malnutrition are lethal; according to the Global Burden Of Disease Study 1990-2017, malnutrition contributes to 68 percent of the death of children under five. Breastfeeding plays an important role in nutrient intake at an early age; malnutrition in pregnant women leads to insufficient lactation. 

        The effects of malnutrition in India even impact the economy. According to a study conducted in 2008, India loses one percent of its GDP indirectly because of malnutrition resulting from poverty. On the 2019 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102 out of 117 countries. While malnutrition results from poverty, it leads to more poverty due to a lack of ability to work, forming a vicious cycle passed by generation among the poor. 

        The NGO “Embracing the World” focuses heavily on the five basic needs for poor people: food, shelter, education, health care, and livelihood. It has been fighting against hunger in India for over 25 years by feeding more than 10 million people throughout India every year and distributing milk, rice, and other uncooked meals to remote communities that don’t receive any aid. Along with expanding the food supply, assisting in education and health care can also help reduce malnutrition. A test has been done in one village, where the minority of healthy individuals were encouraged to educate the majority of undernourished to improve the community’s contribution and awareness on nutrition, the results turned out positive. 70% of a total of 280 children in that village showed improvement in health. This is an affordable, sustainable, and acceptable community-based approach. This NGO has done similar things, such as teaching the villagers to live in self-reliant communities and educating the tribal communities on health. Such actions can help reduce the hunger burden in some regions temporarily. 

          The Indian government has also been working hard on this issue. “The problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame,” said former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The government has issued policies and bills to reduce malnutrition, including the Integrated Child Development Service Scheme (ICDS) in 1975, the Food Security Bill in 2012, and the National Nutrition Strategy in 2017. However, due to poor delivery service and inadequate infrastructure, the ICDS has not significantly boosted nutrition levels in India, and it is estimated that 40% of the subsidized food never reaches the intended recipients. 

          Therefore, besides short term solutions, a long term solution should also be used to gradually help India tackle this issue at the “root” of poverty. “End Poverty (EP)” is an NGO working across India with a purpose of poverty reduction. It offers programs focusing on poor and needy women, poor households, and small and marginal farmers. EP sets up motorized machines, necessary kits, and equipment in villages and trains poor and needy women to improve accessory production and sewing and stitching skills so that they have alternate incomes. The EP also helps farm productivity through training farmers on scientific agricultural farming skills and modern dairy farming practices. The EP has planted 40,305 fruit trees covering 749 farmers from 70 villages and supplied high-quality genetic materials to improve breeding and animal nutrition. These actions help the local farmers to reduce poverty, as well as to produce more nutritional products. EP also engages and supports rural development. This NGO focuses on reducing the root of malnutrition, which is a long-term solution to significantly and effectively reduce malnutrition in India. 

        Both NGOs provide solutions to malnutrition by helping the poor. While “Embracing the World” provides food to the vulnerable people, easing the suffering in the short term, “End Poverty” focuses on reducing poverty in the long term through providing assistance and education to enhance productivity to the poor and needy women and farmers.