India’s Malnutrition Protocol Is More ‘Wait and Watch’ Than Tangible Interventions

by Rahul Devi

a cultural significance and are deeply ingrained in the diets of certain communities. It is important to take into account the acceptability and feasibility of incorporating millets into the diets of malnourished children, rather than blindly promoting them as a solution.

Furthermore, the protocol’s focus on fortification as a means to address nutritional deficiencies is questionable. While fortification can be an effective strategy, it cannot replace a balanced and diverse diet. It is essential to address the underlying causes of malnutrition, such as poverty, inadequate access to nutritious food, and lack of knowledge about proper nutrition.

Additionally, the use of the appetite test as a screening tool for malnutrition raises concerns. This test may not accurately identify at-risk children and categorize them as needing inpatient or outpatient care. The protocol fails to recognize the importance of close collaboration between the Women and Child department and the Health department in providing holistic care for malnourished children.

Furthermore, burdening Anganwadi workers with additional responsibilities, such as training families on WASH practices, is unrealistic. Many Anganwadi centers lack functional toilets and clean drinking water, making it ironic to expect them to educate others on these crucial aspects of hygiene and sanitation.

It is also important to critically examine the promotion of millets as a solution to malnutrition. While they do have some nutritional benefits, they are not a magical solution. Millets may not provide all the essential amino acids and their high fiber content can lead to reduced hunger and frequency of eating. Additionally, the presence of anti-nutrients in millets can hinder the absorption of essential nutrients.

Overall, the new protocol for the management of malnutrition in children released by Union Minister Smriti Irani seems to prioritize short-term solutions and overlooks the systemic issues that contribute to malnutrition. A truly holistic approach should address the social, economic, cultural, and political barriers to good nutrition and focus on preventing, rather than treating, malnutrition. It is crucial to involve all stakeholders and base interventions on evidence-based practices to effectively tackle this pressing issue in contemporary India.

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