New Delhi, July 8 (G’nY News Service): A recent international research has established food price spikes as a direct contributor to rising malnutrition among Indian children. The study revealed that the stupendous price hikes of 2007 – 2009 has resulted in 28% higher “wasting” among children of (undivided) Andhra Pradesh. “Wasting” is a measure of malnutrition based on World Health Organization Standards, that shows a child has a lower than expected weight as compared to their height.
The study, conducted by Public Health Foundation of India and the University of Oxford, along with a team from Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, concentrated on the state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest states of India with more than 85 million population. The research utilized data from the Young Lives project based at Oxford University to unveil the alarming threats of inflation the future generations of India.
The researchers accumulated survey data from 1,918 children from poor, middle-income, and wealthy households in the Andhra Pradesh since 2002 for their study. They noted that during the last global recession in the year 2009, the proportion of ‘wasted children’ in Andhra Pradesh rose to 28 per cent, in contrast to 18 per cent in 2006.
(Photo courtesy: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/)
Talking to G’nY correspondent, lead author of the study Dr Sukumar Vellakkal, Public Health Foundation of India, said, “We conducted interviews of households on food expenses based on 15-day periods across eight food categories viz., rice, wheat, legumes, meat, fish, eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables. What we found out that, as prices of food hike the economically vulnerable households are compelled to compromise on essential nutrition and concentrate more on staple diets like wheat and rice. As a result, they are deprived of vitamins and proteins and are forced to survive mostly on calories, which is unhealthy. So, it’s the financially challenged fraction that bears the brunt of every price spike”.
“The government does have the Public Distribution System and the Food Security Bill that caters subsidised ration to a large section of the population. But both these schemes supply only rice wheat and sugar. It is imperative that the government increases it coverage and include more nutritious food options.” He said on asked about government assistance.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s Global Hunger Index, child malnourishment cases in India are among the highest in the world, even higher than sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
The consequences of malnutrition are myriad, both social and economic. A under nourished child possess weaker immune systems and are more vulnerable to diseases. On a long term thing might potentially cause stunting, which inturn can dramatically effect education.
Malnutrition can potentially challenge the entire progeny and cripple the workforce of a burgeoning nation in terms of its health care expenditure and weakening health profiles of its residents.
Considering the stupendous rate of inflation in the recent years, it is imperative that the government needs to modify its policies on an urgent basis to eradicate malnutrition among the children and secure the future of the county.