. Inadequate dietary intake and disease are directly responsible for undernutrition, but multiple indirect determinants exacerbate these causes. These include food insecurity, inadequate childcare practices, low maternal education, poor access to health services, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and poor hygiene practices.
The lockdown disrupted access to essential services, including mid-day meals, which are not only a nutritional measure to supplement some portion of a child’s calorie needs but is also a tool to access education. Through a concurrent rapid needs assessment in its programme areas, carried out in June 2020 across 14 states and 2 union territories, and covering 7235 respondents, Save the Children found that around 40 per cent of eligible children have not received mid-day meal during the lockdown.
There is a steady and silent revolution taking place in the field of nutrition, with an ever-increasing political will on the issue. This should be sustained throughout the year and in the coming years. Since the pandemic has pushed back our efforts on ending malnutrition by a few years, here are some immediate steps that need to be taken to address the issues.
First, core indicators across the lifecycle should be prioritised and reviewed at all levels (national, state, district, and block). Second, for easy and sustained access to nutritious food, we need to bring the spotlight back on locally-available, low-cost nutritious food. We also need to maximise maternal, infant and young child nutrition actions.
Third, we need to strengthen take-home ration and mid-day meal service delivery strategies to ensure the continuation of services and coverage of the most vulnerable communities, especially in urban areas. Fourth, child-sensitive social protection schemes, like PMMVY, need to be implemented in a way so that they reach the last child.