To tackle hunger, we cannot ignore India

Last week, Save the Children and other organisations launched the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, an unprecedented effort to end hunger and malnutrition.

While this was all going on in the UK, I was in India with a group of British health workers seeing for ourselves how hunger is affecting children and communities.

An Indian health worker who is at the frontline of efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition.

Almost half of India’s children are underweight and stunted, and more than 70% of women and children have serious nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia.

Those from the poorest households, and those from tribal, Muslim and Dalit populations are at the greatest risk from malnutrition.

Anganwadi workers

We spent a week with Indian health workers who are at the frontline of efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition.

We met Anganwadi (community health) workers in Delhi and Rajasthan and visited the small, local community centres where they monitor children’s growth, provide basic healthcare and pre-primary education.

If children show signs of being underweight, Anganwadi workers given them micro-nutrients and protein-rich food such as lentils.

Similarly, pregnant women are monitored and provided with supplements so that both they and their unborn babies get the nutrients they need.

Anganwadi workers and other community health workers proactively go out into the community to identify pregnant women and children at risk of malnutrition.

They educate them about nutritious food and healthy practices such as exclusive breastfeeding.

With the support of health workers, mothers of malnourished children are also encouraged to meet up regularly to discuss ways to improve their children’s health and identify solutions for themselves.

Tackling hunger in India

India is home to one-third of the world’s malnourished children so if we want to tackle it globally, we cannot ignore India.

In our recent Nutrition Barometer report, India scored very low because of both weak nutrition outcomes and inadequate political commitment to address the issue.

There are signs now that the Indian government is taking the issue seriously and it has introduced policies to address child health and nutrition, such as increasing the number of Anganwadi workers in districts with the highest levels of malnutrition.

Although there is enough food for everyone, the poorest children in countries like India are going without. This severely affects their health and damages their life chances.

IF politicians in India, the UK and the rest of the world take action – by investing in more skilled health workers and giving the poorest people the power to feed themselves – we can stop children dying from hunger and malnutrition.

Find out more about the IF campaign and take action here.

 

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