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Millennium Post

Securing nutrition

Securing nutrition

Malnutrition and undernutrition have been persisting problems in India across regions and societies but there has neither been data nor any specific policy oriented for the deficiencies of specific micronutrients. But in a first, the government surveyed for micronutrient deficiency among children and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released findings from the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey which collected data on the nutritional status of Indian children between under 19 years of age. Data collection thus done also seeks to assess micronutrient deficiencies at the largest scale in a government survey so far. Blood, urine, and faecal samples were collected to analyse for micronutrient deficiencies in 1,12,316 children and adolescents who were surveyed by 2,500 survey personnel. Micronutrients that are important for children and adolescents include vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, folate and iron, and external intake is the only reliable way to ensure favourable levels of these necessary micronutrients as specific deficiencies of these could cause morbidity and mortality. Disorders developed from deficiency may not always be fatal but they can lead to significant impairments in cognitive development, physical growth, and work productivity in adulthood which in turn, show effect in terms of man power productivity in specific contexts. Vitamins and minerals are not produced in the body in requisite amounts so it is important that children get them from their diet. Malnutrition is still the underlying risk factor for the deaths of children under five years of age in India and is known to have contributed to 68.2 per cent of such deaths in 2017. Addressing this issue has to be a large-scale drive beginning at the most primary levels—villages. Stunting, for instance, is an inter-generational problem and growth retardation starts from the embryonic stage. So, a malnourished mother will have a low birth weight child which is likely to be grow up stunted. A collaborative effort and coordination between the ministries that possess data on nutritional parameters of children will be a vital first step in this direction. It is never too late to make a start and the grave situation must be addressed on a war footing.

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