Food Insecurity: It’s Impact on Child and Human Development

Food scarcity is the emerging crisis that India as a nation is likely to be impacted with in the near future. If the nation-state does not pay attention to it, there will be immense adverse consequences.

The New Leam Staff

Food Insecurity is one of the most common and neglected problems affecting the Indian masses in many different ways. The term does not only refer to the lack of availability of food but also the lack of nutritional food. The threat of food insecurity commonly emerges from poverty but sometime it has other causal factors like crop failure, hybridization of food and dairy products, excessive use of chemical and fertilizers which kills the nutritional value of the food, in appropriate cooking methods and unexplored nutritional value of the food and crops.

To say that the poor people are worst hit by the problem of food insecurity is partial truth as today it affects every person irrespective of their class composition.

Shortage of food does not only affect the body and mind of the individual but a recent study that was published in The Scroll shows that food insecurity has direct correlation with the learning capacity and memory of young children. The study concluded that the Household food insecurity at any age predicates lower vocabulary, reading, Mathematics and English scores in early adolescence. Adolescence that transited from food insecurity at the age of five to food security at later stage in life had the lowest scores in all subjects at large.

The study not only focuses on the relation between food insecurity and the learning outcomes in children but in a way it also highlights the importance of early child hood care which is very important for the overall development of the child.

In a paper titled “The negative effects of poverty & food insecurity on child development”, presented by Mariana Chilton, Michelle Chyatte & Jennifer Breaux mentions that a slightest carelessness in feeding the child in their early three years of life hampers the overall development of the child.

The paper further mentions that in developing nations, 200 million children (roughly 39%) under age five do not reach their development potential because of poverty, malnutrition, high rates of infection, lack of stimulation and education and instability in the home which has negative effects on child development.  Major parts South Africa and South Asia is worst affected by this problem but isn’t that the developed countries do not face it, they do.

In India 1.5 million children die every year due to inadequate early childhood care. 4 out of 100 babies do not live beyond one year of age or sometimes less than one year.  According the data presented by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – 4 of 15 states, 37 per cent children under the age of five are stunted; 22 per cent are wasted while 34 per cent under the age of 5 are under weight and 4 out of 5 children under 3 years of age in the country are anemic. The situation arises due to lack of early childhood care.

On papers and functional are various schemes and programs implemented by the government which are rolled to support children health like the Mid-Day Meal scheme, Integrated Child Development Service Scheme, Kishori Shakti Yojana, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, Reproductive and Child Health Program, Balika Samriddhi Yojana etc but these function through various constraints and anomalies which impairs their effectiveness and does not serves the purpose holistically.

Despite the various effort made by the government of India continues to live with the problem of food shortage and food insecurity. Two square meals in a day is still a dream of many in the country. Reports of food grains getting spoilt in rains and in storage houses has become a common phenomenon in the state. Keeping in mind climate change the challenges of food security has increased manifolds.

The repercussions of non-availability of food grains will only results to problems of child development and human development overall.

In 2017,  seven year Santoshi from Jharkhand died in the four walls of her house because her family could not feed her. She died of hunger, poverty and helplessness, whether we categorize it as death due to hunger or yet another instance of state failure is still a question. This is just one example but there are buried how many unknown deaths due to empty stomach is still not defined.

Who is to be blamed the state, individual, state officials, parents or children themselves are the larger question to address. It is the responsibility of the parents to feed the child and if incase the parents cannot, it is the moral duty of state to tackle the problem of hunger in society.

Household poverty does nothing but takes away the development of the child both socially and physically which not only affects the health of the child but also the health of the future generation. Keeping in mind household poverty and the problem of child development due to hunger, it is imperative for the state to ensure availability of adequate nutritional food.

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