AS THE Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten health and food systems in India and around the world, the 2020 Global Nutrition Report (GNR) released on Tuesday calls on governments, businesses and civil society to step up efforts to address malnutrition in all its forms.
At present, one in every nine people in the world is hungry, and one in every three is overweight or obese. More and more countries experience the double burden of malnutrition, where undernutrition coexists with overweight, obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), Venkatesh Mannar, co-chair of the report and special adviser on nutrition to Tata Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative, told The Indian Express.
A multi-stakeholder initiative comprising global institutions, the GNR is led by experts in the field of nutrition. The GNR was established in 2014 following the first ‘Nutrition for Growth’ summit, as an accountability mechanism to track progress against global nutrition targets and the commitments made to reach them.
“At a time when Covid-19 has further revealed the gaps in our food systems, we now have a unique opportunity to act in coordination to address them and ensure that healthy and sustainably produced food is the most accessible, affordable and desirable choice for all,” Mannar said.
The report shows that India remains severely affected by malnutrition, with one of the highest rates of within-country inequalities globally. However, some progress has been made to tackle stunting and underweight, and the country has put in place innovative programmes aimed at reaching the most vulnerable.
India has tasted success in reducing rates of the condition of being underweight in children and adolescents. Between 2000 and 2016, rates have decreased from 66 per cent to 58.1 per cent for boys and 54.2 per cent to 50.1 per cent in girls. However, this is still high compared to the average of 35.6 per cent for boys and 31.8 per cent for girls in the Asia region. In addition, 37.9 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted and 20.8 per cent are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7 per cent and 9.4 per cent, respectively.
Diet-related diseases continue to be an issue, with one in two women of reproductive age experiencing anaemia. On the other hand, rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise, affecting almost one-fifth of adults at 21.6 per cent females and 17.8 per cent males, the report stated.
Globally, countries are often unprepared to face the nutrition crisis. The report calls for a change in food systems. Existing agriculture systems still focus on staple grains such as rice, wheat and maize, rather than producing a broader range of more diverse and healthier foods such as fruits, nuts and vegetables.
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