The intertwined relationship of poverty and malnutrition cannot be left alone. In spite of social and economic development, the burden of malnutrition across the globe remains unacceptably high. A vital and exclusive relationship exists between nutritional status, human capital, and socio-economic development. Malnutrition destructively affects the physiological and mental capacity of individuals; which in turn hampers and disengages productivity levels, making them and their respective countries more susceptible to poverty.
A bilateral and two-way link exists between malnutrition and poverty, creating a vicious cycle with each fueling the other. Malnutrition not only produces conditions of poverty by reducing the economic potential of the population and likewise but poverty reinforces malnutrition by increasing the risk of food insecurity.
In order to tackle the worrisome issue while charting out ideas for creating a nutritious and rich hub nation with greater value enhancement of women, the Center for Work and Welfare(CWW) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized an online discussion by Prof G Sridevi with kind words and discussion moderation by Dr. Indu Prakash and Dr. Arjun Kumar on Poverty and Nutritional Security among Women and Children on 16th August 2021.
Dr. Indu Prakash Singh, Facilitator, CityMakers Mission International mentioned that the issue of poverty and malnutrition is a vicious cycle. Poverty affiliates malnutrition which further reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of our productive workforce and induces poverty due to inefficient work and low earning. But when it gets associated with women along with children, then it becomes a virtuous blockage to country’s development in more than one way:
Prof. G Sridevi, Associate Professor, School of Economics, Central University of Hyderabad initiated the discussion and explained the whole issue of malnutrition and poverty. She also emphasized the solutions and a positive approach to fill the widening gaps between the rich and poor and provide this section with the basic necessities needed, not for only an individual’s development but also its country’s development.
Prof G. Sridevi brought down the different dimensions and aspects of food and nutritional security. She underscored the need for three aspects related to the topic:
- Food and National Security
- Social Inequality poverty
- Role of state
Changing Context of Food Security
Prof G. Sridevi iterated that although various policies were initiated by the Government of India like MGNREGA and various other employment opportunities and programs, they do not reduce and dwarfs the failure of Right to Equality and thus, equal access to nutrition to children and women.
The context of changing Food Security is broadly on basis of:
- Physical Availability
- Access to Food
- Vulnerabilities(Watts and Bohle 1993)
- Right to Food
- NFACT 2013
- Food Security
- Household Level
- Individual Level
She listed the systems approach to nutrition and poverty with the inclusion of women. This included:
- Health system
- Social Protection System
- Food System
The context was that, if the health system is improved then, adverse effects of nutrition would be faded away and people could be healthy and remain forever by getting access to primary healthcare services.
The social protection system could get accomplished through awareness and helping each other. The food system can assure a nutritious lifecycle and a proper and effective way to channelize the food towards poor citizens.
Prof G. Sridevi expressed her views on studying nutrition. She further categorized three basic contexts on which it needs to be studied:
- Socio-Economic and Political context
- Education and Employment
- Socio cultural and Wealth Perception
The data presented by Global Hunger Index, 2020 shows a declining trend in India’s Nutrition access. It ranked India at 94th out of 107 countries. It was because of the cummulative score of only 27.2 due to poor availability of nutrition to rural sector. In 2000 it was 38.9 ad it decreased while population increased. This created a gap between rich and poor.
The undernourishment captures the nutrition situation of the country as a whole.
Also, the GHI score envisages four broad indicators that are:
- Child Mortality
- Child wasting
- Child stunting
The indicators reflected poor nutrition and caloric deficiencies.
The duel experienced a rise in Public Distribution System and a new policy guidelines that helped them get nutritious food to rural people of society. Also, there was huge labour supply in Andhra Pradesh that gave huge impetus to self sufficiency and subsistence.
The land has transferred from upper caste to middle income group in Andhra Pradesh that has led to increase in poverty among vulnerable section.
Prof. G Sridevi also emphasised that when resources are limited, females sacrifice their food for the family.
The conclusion to the discussion was that malnourishment is a vicious cycle that will never end on its own until some measures are taken by the government of India. Prof. G Sridevi emphasised that if women is derived of basic nutrients of food, then the coming generations eventually suffers due to genetic and biological factors in her eyes from parents.
The issue has to be dealt with proper guidance and support from government. Various schemes should be brought in to enhance the awareness among citizens. If these issues are not solved as soon, then it will eventually make India an unproductive country with falling HDI and further ranking slipperage.
Acknowledgment: Vaibhav Aggarwal is a Research Intern at IMPRI.