To mark the National Nutrition Week in the first week of September 2017, the NITI Aayog released the National Nutrition Strategy. The strategy seeks to bring nutrition into the national development agenda and to deal with problem of nutrition in a comprehensive manner.
It is against this backdrop, it is pertinent to understand the vision, targets, implementation strategies and the expected outcomes of the National Nutrition Strategy. Besides, it is also necessary to understand the necessity to come out with a National Nutrition Strategy.
Necessity for National Nutrition Strategy
The National Nutrition Strategy was launched to correct the present pathetic nutrition situation in the country, especially among the vulnerable sections like – women and children. The present nutrition situation can be assessed from the below given facts from the NFHS-3&4.
• In 2015-16, the percentage of stunted children under 5 was 38.4%.
• Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, there has been a rise in the percentage of children who are wasted from 19.8% to 21%. High incidence of wasting was recorded in Punjab, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Sikkim.
• While the prevalence of underweight children was 38% in rural areas, it is 29% in urban areas.
• According to WHO, infants weighing less than 2.5 Kg are 20 times more likely to die than heavier babies.
• The national average weight at birth is less than 2.5 Kg for 19% of the children.
• As per an estimate, around 58% of children in India are anaemic. It is due to nutritional deficiency of vitamins, iron and other essential minerals.
Key features of the National Nutrition Strategy are –
Vision: The vision of the National Nutrition Strategy is to achieve Kuposhan Mukt Bharat (India free from malnutrition) by 2022.
Focus: The focus is on preventing and reducing undernutrition across the life cycle- as early as possible, especially in the first three years of life.
Goals: The National Nutrition Strategy seeks to contribute to key national development goals for more inclusive growth, such as the reduction of maternal, infant and young child mortality, through its focus on the following two monitorable targets
i. Reduction in percentage age of underweight children below 5 years from the present 35.7% to 20.7% by 2022.
ii. Reduction in prevalence of anemia in children (6-59 months) from the present 58.4% to 19.5% by 2022.
iii. Reduction in prevalence of anemia in women and girls (15-49 years) from the present 53.1% to 17.7% 2022.
In a longer term perspective, the strategy will also aim to progressively reduce all forms of undernutrition by 2030.
The achievement of the monitorable targets of the strategy will contribute to improved learning outcomes in elementary education, improved adult productivity, women’s empowerment and gender equality and the National Development Agenda. Achievement of these national development goals will also significantly shape progress towards global sustainable development goals. Besides, following positive impacts can be seen from its successful implementation.
• One fifth of maternal mortality can be averted by addressing maternal stunting and iron deficiency anemia.
• One fifth of neonatal mortality can be prevented by ensuring the universal practice of early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding within the first hour of birth.
• One fifth of child mortality (under 5 years) can be prevented by ensuring universal exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and appropriate complementary feeding practices after 6 months (along with continued breastfeeding till 2 years and beyond).
• Deaths of children under five years can be reduced by 16% in India through the universal practice of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and another 5 % through the universal practice of appropriate complementary feeding.
The rationale for investing in Nutrition is globally well recognized – both as a critical development imperative, as well as crucial for the fulfillment of human rights- especially of the most vulnerable children, girls and women. It constitutes the foundation for human development, by reducing susceptibility to infections, related morbidity, disability and mortality burden, enhancing cumulative lifelong learning capacities and adult productivity. The NITI Aayog’s National Nutrition Strategy is a right in achieving the developmental obligations of the government.