Food producers and manufacturers are the “natural allies” of charities in the fight against child malnutrition in India, according to the leader of an international humanitarian major.
The comments come on the day of the release of the “Nutrition Barometer” report, authored by World Vision and Save the Children, which assesses the political, legal and financial commitments by governments to tackling malnutrition in 36 countries where 90% of the world’s undernourished children live.
In spite of its recent strong economic growth and wealth of fertile agricultural land, India comes in final position in terms of political resolve and commitment to growing resources to fight child undernutrition — even lagging behind countries with far less resources, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen.
Onus not just on government
“Malnutrition needs to be addressed by others, aside from the government and non-governmental organisations, and the food industry looks like a natural ally for us,” Dr Jayakumar Christian, CEO and national director of World Vision India, told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Food growers and producers could join us to really help in the fight against child malnutrition in India. They could really bring their lobbying power and influence in so many areas to help this cause.”
Christian suggested that the food industry could even push the government to deliver more nutrition-friendly agricultural policies that will in turn benefit the poor. It could also help by providing more ethical messaging and building help for the poor and malnourished into more of their CSR strategies.
“We would also like to explore public-private projects in areas with high malnutrition and call on food producers to pass on their expertise in food efficiency and quality to help the people in these districts,” he said. Worldvision has almost 2,000 staff serving across 163 districts in India.
Child undernutrition levels remain persistently high in the country, at around 42%, according to the last official survey in 2005/6. This is due to issues including inadequate spending on health and nutrition, wide economic and social inequality and weak political commitment, though World Vision suggests that the commitment by the authorities to tackle child undernutrition seems now to be strengthening.
"Statistics relating to children abound in India. We have analysed these statistics, debated them but the pain and humiliation behind these numbers remain," said Christian.
The Nutrition Barometer will be launched later today in New York, and it aims to provide a snapshot of national governments’ commitments and progress in addressing children’s nutrition. It can be viewed online via the www.childhealthnow.org site.