by The Welthi Bureau
It’s the biggest irony ever.
India stands only second to China as the world’s largest food producer and yet 48.2 million Indian children are malnourished, 72% of infants and 52% of married women are anemic.
India is counted as one of countries with the world’s worst malnutrition figures and the reasons aren’t hard to find.
Illiteracy and ignorance: 260 million Indians (26% of the population) are illiterate and about 70% of the population still live in villages. There is also an acute lack of knowledge about healthy food habits.
Poverty: The majority of Indian population still lives below the poverty lines and on the Global Hunger Index, India is placed 67 among 80 nations having the worst hunger situations. 25% of all hungry people worldwide live in India!
Social taboos &food fads: In several parts of India, women are anemic as they don’t have access to balanced diets and are forced to eat leftover food.
Organizations such as UNICEF and WHO have contributed towards creating awareness for nutritional improvement, through their Applied Nutrition Program.
There are simple steps through which this object can be achieved:
Integrate it into the school curriculum : Children should learn about the need to eat balanced diets in their science books. It can also be communicated during school lunch programs.
Drams, songs on nutrition on radio & TV : Over 167 million Indian households have TV & 88% have mobile phones! This extensive reach of electronic media can be leveraged to pass on important messages on the critical need to eat healthy balanced diets. For example, in many parts of Tamil Nadu, farmers radio programs are popular and a message on nutrition can be included in it as well.
Informative articles on nutrition via Newspapers, magazines: The print media is another vehicle to reach out to the literate crowd. Even simple facts like eating fortified, iodized salt to beat iodine deficiency or green leafy vegetables to combat Vitamin C shortages can help.
Road shows/ Puppetry: For outlying villages beyond the reach of radio/ TV, simple puppet shows work like magic. For example, In Cambodia, puppet shows where a young female puppet describes how she mixes salt, sugar and water as a remedy for diarrhea have been highly successful.
Education for Self Help Groups (SHGs): There several village cottage industries across India where food processing happens and these pockets of women need to education about food safety, hygienic methods at the outset.
Films, still pictures, lantern slides: Since visuals are more appealing, docu-dramas on nutrition can be screened in village cinemas.
For a nation of India’s size, geography and population, food education needs to be an ongoing process until a basic awareness has been created across all segments of the population.
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