189 UN countries had first met in 2000, to free themselves of extreme poverty and other deprivations. They met again a decade later to recommit themselves to expedite the process and meet targets by 2015. Now, just a few month short of 2016, the world is approaching a milestone, all UN member countries are working hard to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline of December, 2015. The MDGs had set a target of eight basic human goals like to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases, ensure environment sustainability and last but the least develop a global partnership for development. The goals look pretty simple and important for the future of humanity.
Each of the above is very important in itself, but as the festive season is round the corner and people are thinking more often all the good food and sweets we are gonna have (with all thought’s about having to starve ourselves to look good on hold for once) lets talk about the second part of the first goal- eradicate extreme hunger.
India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population; over a third of the world’s underweight children; and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people (these facts might a few minutes to digest, I thought this happened in only third world countries).
Malnutrition is a severe social problem, a multi-edged sword- it not only doesn’t add positively to the growth but it’s actually counterproductive in nature. Any person without adequate food is like ticking bomb, but for some reason it is measured in terms of women and children (maybe because a mother health effects that of a child). It is said the first 60 months on earth is extremely critical to the growth of a child. It is at this delicate children are most exposed to growth retardation, micronutrient deficiencies, and other common childhood illness. For this reason UN studies ‘Prevalence of underweight children Under 5 years’ as an indicator of malnutrition.
As per UN eradicating hunger is key challenge for India. In 1990, when the MDGs were formulated, 53.5 percent children in India were underweight. India targets to reduce the malnutrition children to half from 1990 levels to 26.75% (wow, so that means we are OK, actually happy if 1 out of 4 children is still underweight, what a high goal we have set).
As seen in most cases India doesn’t has the necessary data uniformly across the decades for children upto 5 years, so underweight children Under 3 years have been used as a surrogate at many places (in all probability a child who is not underweight by their 3rd birthday would not be by 5th also). Using this as benchmark 52% of children below 3 years were underweight in 1990 this declined to 43% in 1998-99 and 40% by 2005-06. At this rate of decline the proportion of underweight children below 3 years would reduce to reduce 33% by 2015, which would be a drastic fall short. But rapid overall development in recent years has been a boon. 10 states had already achieved the target in 2005-06; the states being Mizoram (14.2%), Sikkim (17.3%), Manipur (19.5%), Kerala (21.2%), Goa (21.3%), Punjab (23.6%), Nagaland (23.7%), Jammu & Kashmir (24%), Delhi (24.9%), and Tamil Nadu (25.9%). We hope that these figures will be reduced further.
The sweet smell of success also seems not to be too far behind on a country level. As per UNICEF’s and the MWCD’s recent report there were 29.4% underweight children in 2013-14. India seems to be just a bit off-track in achieving it’s MDG target to reduce hunger by half from 1990 level, in all probability we will be able to achieve this small milestone just after 2015 deadline. Malnutrition/ undernourished/underweight are all caused by lack of proper food which is caused by acute poverty. We can’t solve the whole problem but we can atleast do something.
stop for a minute the next time we leave food on our table, maybe get it packed and give it to someone for whom the leftovers might be the only meal of the day. When we go out to dine out at the new luxury dining restaurant, can we keep aside a portion of the amount we will be spending, and contribute it toward a charity/organisation that works towards the cause. Maybe small drops can’t make an ocean but they can contribute to its formation.