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The face of famine

By Sandhya Srinivasan

Forty-three per cent of all children under 5 in India are underweight, and more than half of all under-5 deaths are linked to malnutrition. One in three adults too is underweight, and 60% of deaths due to infectious diseases are caused by the coexistence of undernutrition. These figures represent a composite index of chronic and acute deprivation and hunger. As Dr Binayak Sen says, the poor are walking with famine by their side


Health through the hunger lens

By Yogesh Jain with Jan Swasthya Sahyog

In tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh, where this writer works, men and women are at least 10 kg lighter than the reference Indian, and even the popular PDS rice scheme lasts a family only 11 days. The high burden of all diseases, from TB and malaria to cancer and heart disease, has clear links with the 'lifestyle' of poverty and hunger in this region


Layperson’s guide to nutrition and malnutrition

By Ramani Atkuri with Jan Swasthya Sahyog

Malnutrition underlies 50% of all under-5 deaths worldwide. What are the links between malnutrition and ill-health? How is malnutrition to be determined and measured?


The career of hunger: Critical reflections on the history of nutrition science and policy-Part 1

By Veena Shatrugna

Nutrition research in 1920-30 'extracted' about 10-15 nutrients out of nearly 900 foods: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins. By 1950, Indian scientists were estimating people's requirements based on their own largely vegetarian diets, prioritising cost and recommending a diet of cereal for the nation and excluding animal protein. This exclusively cereal diet underlies the profile of malnutrition and disease today


What individuals spend on a monthly food basket

By Rahul Goswami

Though the amounts spent on cereals are largely the same, there are clear differences between the spending of rural and urban consumers on milk and milk products, sugar and oil. Urban consumers spend 104% more than rural consumers on beverages, refreshments and processed foods


The poor spend more of their income, but eat less

By Sachin Kumar Jain

The top 10% in rural areas spend Rs 913 per capita per month on food -- just 38.1% of their total expenditure per month -- to get 2,617 calories, 73.8 gm of protein and 65.5 gm of fat daily. The bottom 10% spend 66.5% of their total expenditure per month on food -- just Rs 251 per capita per month -- for a mere 1,545 calories, 40.7 gm of protein and 19.5 gm of fat daily


Land alienation and starvation

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

From the south to the northeast, health professionals and social scientists working at the grassroots report that adivasis are at the bottom of the nutritional ladder, worse off than dalits in most cases. Where adivasis retain control over even a small piece of land, there is some food security. It is the landless who are on the brink of starvation


The shadow of hunger

By Aditya Malaviya

Baran is one of 22 districts in Rajasthan designated ‘food insecure’. The Sahariya tribals who have a per capita income of roughly Rs 7 a day live in the shadow of hunger, with not enough money to buy even BPL rations. Children are brought up on little more than bajra rotis with salt and chillies and, not surprisingly, child deaths from hunger are reported every few months


Poor fare

By Rajashri Dasgupta

This article details how the urban poor stave off hunger, cooking just one meal a day, scrounging for chicken waste, and making do with the empty calories offered by street food. Even the nutritious sattu that Kolkata’s poor traditionally survived on now costs Rs 9 a portion and is beyond the reach of many


The underfed and the unscrupulous

By Shahina K K

In Raichur district of Karnataka, where over 4,500 children face acute malnutrition and 2,689 have died of malnutrition in two years, there is a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The greater the problem, the higher the multi-crore contracts for supply of completely inedible, even dangerous, supplementary food packets to anganwadis


The wider effects of nutrition research: History of nutrition science and policy-Part 2

By Veena Shatrugna

The decision to focus on calories from cheap sources of food influenced many of independent India’s major policy decisions such as the shamefully low poverty line, a minimum wage to meet these low dietary requirements, a public distribution system limited to cereals, and high-input monoculture to produce these cereals. The combined results are seen in the undernutrition and catastrophic health profiles of Indians today. Micronutrient programmes are the natural extension of this policy


Approaches to malnutrition and the writ of a compartmented government

By Rahul Goswami

The absence of inter-sectoral programmes covering the entire lifecycle of women and children in particular and requiring coordination between different ministries such as women and child development, health and family welfare, agriculture, food processing and human resource development, is the reason why, at the start of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period (2012-17), the fundamental causes of malnutrition in India remain as they were during the First Five-Year Plan


Commodifying malnutrition

By Radha Holla

Government is abdicating its responsibility to guarantee the food and health rights of its people by entering into partnerships with the commercial sector. Corporations are only too happy to capitalise on malnutrition by supplying pre-mixed food packets to anganwadis instead of hot cooked meals, trumpeting their social responsibility even as they create markets for their fortified foods and use nutrition education to build brand loyalty for the future


Plumpy Nut or indigenous foods?

By Vandana Prasad

Imported ready-to-use therapeutic foods such as Plumpy Nut are being pushed to supplant locally prepared indigenous foods in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, ignoring the multiple causes of malnutrition and destroying the diversity of potential solutions based on locally available foods


Micro, bio and packaged -- how India’s nutrition mix is being reshaped

By Rahul Goswami

Crop and food multinationals, ably assisted by government, are using the 'reduce hidden hunger' platform to push hunger-busting technologies that best suit them -- including biofortification of crops, the use of supplementation, and of commercial fortification of prepared and processed foods


Universal malnutrition?

By Sridhar Srikantiah

All children in India display a slower growth rate, but we look only at those that have ‘fallen’ below the cut-off and call the rest ‘normal’. Surely poverty and hunger cannot be the only cause of this near-universal malnutrition? Is malnutrition caused by not feeding our children enough dal, milk, eggs, meat and vegetables, in addition to cereals, in the first two years? Does that explain why cereal-based ICDS food supplements are ineffective in reducing malnutrition? 


Mal-Mal approach to malnutrition

By John Oommen

The determinants of nutritional status are different from place to place. The Mitra programme in adivasi areas of Orissa where 35% of children would die before the age of five, found a strong correlation between prevalence of malaria and malnutrition. Treating children for malaria immediately saw their weights jump. Identifying and dealing with specific local factors could change the game for malnourished children and communities


Combating under-3 malnutrition

By Ramani Atkuri with Jan Swasthaya Sahyog

In the Jan Swasthya Sahyog's 72 creches across 30 Chhattisgarh villages, children aged six months to three years are given three meals that cover two-thirds of their daily requirement of calories and protein. The cost per child per day is Rs 17, but the payoffs in terms of their nutritional status and health are unquestionable


‘Malnutrition will not change unless women exclusively breastfeed’

By Sharmila Joshi

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life provides comprehensive nutrition and also passes on the mother’s immunity from certain infections. Neonatologist Armida Fernandez, who started the first human milk bank in India, discusses why many women stop breastfeeding, the medical profession’s response, and the community’s role in supporting women


‘The Food Security Bill is regressive’

The Planning Commission’s minimalist starvation line is perverse, says Biraj Patnaik, who has been working on the Right to Food Campaign for over a decade. If the government cannot move towards universal coverage for all rights, including food, it should stop expending energy on identifying the poor and should instead identify and exclude the rich from entitlements meant for the poor