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  • 16 Aug 2019 GS Paper 2 Social Justice

    Malnutrition in India is a scar on India’s pursuit of becoming a superpower. Discuss the reasons and challenges associated with the high level of malnutrition in India?



    • Give facts in introduction to show that malnutrition is prevalent in India.
    • Discuss reasons and challenges associated with the high level of malnutrition in India.
    • Give conclusion.


    • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked India at 103 among 119 countries in 2018, in view of the prevalent undernutrition situation.
    • The World Bank (WB) has declared that with 40 percent of its workforce having experienced stunting as children.
    • India has long been home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world. It is home to over 30.9% of all stunted children under five - the highest in the world.

    Reasons for the high level of Malnutrition in India

    • Extreme hunger and poverty leads to inadequate access to food.
    • Less nutrients in staple foods-rice and wheat.
    • Inadequate Infant and Child Feeding: In urban areas, less than 46% are fed breast milk only for the first few months after birth.
    • Illiteracy and poor awareness: Due to illiteracy and lack of awareness of parents about balanced diet, malnutrition in children occur as they fail to get critical nutrients.
    • Poor sanitation: Open defecation, lack of pure drinking water supply, etc. are one of the major causes of malnutrition in children.
    • Social taboos: regarding women and girls keeps them out of financial and economic independence which results in their poor nutrition.
    • Intergenerational Transmission of Malnutrition: Mothers who are hungry and malnourished produce children who are stunted, underweight and unlikely to develop to achieve their full human potential.

    Challenges to address high malnutrition

    • Inter-state variability: the states with higher malnutrition are the poorer ones and so the lack of budget is a major concern.
    • Lack of Effective Coordination among different authorities at multiple levels.
    • Inadequate training to anganwadi workers, who are the first ones to estimate malnutrition.
    • Lack of Awareness among people about the adverse effects of sanitation and hygiene on health status is a major hurdle.
    • More problems in rural areas and urban slums because of poverty, illiteracy, lack of hygiene, poor presence of government services, sanitation, etc.

    Way Forward

    • Effective implementation of Poshan Abhiyan (National Nutritional Mission) that aims to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight babies.
    • Enhanced focus on social welfare programmes with increased budget.
    • Improve access to public healthcare for poorer communities.
    • Strengthen MGNREGA to ensure better food security
    • Providing Bio-fortified foods to poor through PDS to raise their nutritional intake.
    • Effective implementation of schemes on sanitation such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and ensuring clean drinking water supply to each household.
    • Strengthening schemes for Women and Adolescent Girls- SABLA, ICDS, JSY, etc.
    • Multidimensional efforts from all stakeholders- government, civil society, NGOs (such as Save the Children Foundation), academicians, etc.- is required in a comprehensive manner to fight the menace of malnutrition in India.
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