Malnutrition is a painful and disgraceful scourge on humanity. Despite producing sufficient to feed her citizens, India continues to be one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for the number of children and anemic women suffering from malnutrition. The country has unacceptably high levels of malnutrition with 38.4% of children stunted and 35.8% of children underweight (NFHS-4). Albeit the enviable economic growth rate, millions of children in our country suffer from hunger and starvation. Malnutrition is a debilitating condition that weakens a child’s immune system and raises mortality rates of children from common diseases. Malnutrition as an outcome of abject poverty and inequality does irreversible damage to both individuals and society and increases the disease burden on families and governments.
The fight against malnutrition and hunger can succeed only with a multi-sectoral strategy covering agriculture, social protection, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition-sensitive health care, education, nutrition interventions and initiatives that enable the empowerment of women and balanced physical growth of infants and children. Governments need to show more intent to invigorate nutrition and health service systems so that communities, especially the backward communities like Dalits and Adivasis have access to quality health and nutrition services. Civil society needs to double its commitment to help communities participate more meaningfully in improving the functionality of public health and nutrition systems and make the duty bearers truly accountable.
The goal of achieving a hunger-free world is indeed an enormous but not an impossible one. Hence, as Church communities, let us join Caritas India’s Lenten Campaign against hunger and disease for the year 2019 and express our solidarity and commitment to wipe out malnutrition and to ensure adequate nutritious and healthy food for all our sisters and brothers of our country.