Context: A report by NITI Aayog suggests that Poshan Abhiyaan must be stepped up to meet the targets set by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting and anaemia by 2022.

More on the news:

  • The report by NITI Aayog was prepared before COVID-19 spread rapidly across the country but was released only last month.
  • Many experts also warn that deepening poverty and hunger may delay achieving the goals defined under the Nutrition Mission.

Recent data by National Family Health Survey 4:

  • More than a third of the children under five face stunting and wasting and 40% aged between one and four are anaemic. 
  • Over 50% of pregnant and other women were found to be anaemic

About POSHAN Abhiyaan

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan is a mission with the vision to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022 by improving utilization of key Anganwadi Services and improving the quality of Anganwadi Services delivery. 
  • Nodal agency: Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal Ministry for POSHAN Abhiyaan.
  • Objectives
    • It aims to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
    • It aims to reduce stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • Under the Abhiyaan, Swasth Bharat Preraks in each district coordinate with district officials for better execution.

Analysis by the report

  • Conservative targets:
    • On stunting, the report says that India’s targets are conservative as compared to the global target defined by the World Health Assembly (WHA).
      • The global targets aim for a prevalence rate of 5% of stunting as opposed to India’s goal of reducing stunting levels to 13.3% by 2022.
    • The target of reducing prevalence levels of anaemia among pregnant women from 50.3% in 2016 to 34.4% in 2022 and among adolescent girls from 52.9% in 2016 to 39.66%, is also considered conservative.
  • Need for POSHAN-plus strategy:
    • India needs to now accelerate actions on multiple fronts. 
    • There is a need to quickly graduate to a POSHAN-plus strategy. The strategy apart from continuing strengthening the four pillars of the Poshan Abhiyaan also requires a renewed focus on other social determinants in addition to addressing the governance challenges of NHM/ICDS delivery mechanisms.
  • Complementary feeding:
    • The report calls for a need to lay as much emphasis on complementary feeding as it does on breastfeeding. which the report points out can help avert 60% of the total stunting cases in India.

The projections are optimistic, and will need to be re-adjusted for the COVID-19 disruptions to health and nutrition services.