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Challenges of Ensuring Food and Nutritional Security in Bihar

Singh, K M and Singh, Pushpa (2018): Challenges of Ensuring Food and Nutritional Security in Bihar.

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Abstract

Ensuring food and nutrition security is a big challenge for India, given its huge population and high levels of poverty and malnutrition. Malnutrition among children is prevalent in almost all the states in India but Child malnutrition is a critical problem in Bihar, where the prevalence of underweight children is far worse than the Indian average and higher than any country in the world The level of agricultural performance or income have a strong and significant negative relationship with indices of under-nutrition among adults and children, a result suggesting that improvement of agricultural productivity can be a powerful tool to reduce under-nutrition across the vast majority of the population. The data from NFHS III reveals that nearly 50 per cent of children below 5 years of age are underweight and 20-35 per cent is stunted in the above states. Similarly, around 35 per cent or more of adult men and women of 15-49 years of age are found to be ‘thin’ in these states. MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF, 2008) classified various Indian states based on composite index of food insecurity and found that the eastern states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand fell under the category of ‘very high’ food insecurity, while Bihar and Odisha were classified under ‘high’ food insecurity. The efficacy of Public Distribution System for distribution of rice, wheat, sugar etc and a responsibility of both State and central Government is crucial in addition access to sanitation facilities and women’s literacy are also strong factors affecting malnutrition. Access to healthcare for women and child-care practices, in particular breast- feeding within 1 hour after birth, are other important determinants of malnutrition among adults and children. Malnutrition is a multidimensional problem that requires multisectoral interventions. However, improvements in agriculture alone cannot be effective in combating malnutrition if several other mediating factors are not in place. Interventions to improve education, health, sanitation and household infrastructure, and care and feeding practices are critical. Innovative strategies that integrate agriculture and nutrition programs stand a better chance of combating the malnutrition problem.

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