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Monday, April 12, 2021

How can the UN’s Nobel Prize-winning food plan help India? Explained in 7 points

Here comes a very positive development at the global arena, which can bring huge impact on India and change things for better in our country. As many of you may already know, the Nobel Peace Prize was Friday awarded to the World Food Programme for feeding millions of people from Yemen to North Korea, with the coronavirus pandemic seen pushing millions more into hunger. The WFP was honoured for “its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict,” Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said on unveiling the winner in Oslo. So what does this development mean for us Indians? How does it matter to the country which has the world’s highest malnourished population? We shall discuss that in this article.

How can the UN’s Nobel Prize-winning food plan help India? Explained in 7 points

1. Why was WFP awarded with Novel?

Whether delivering food by helicopter or on the back of an elephant or a camel, the WFP prides itself on being “the leading humanitarian organisation” in a world where, by its own estimates, some 690 million people — one in 11 — go to bed on an empty stomach. “With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger,” Reiss-Andersen said.

Founded in 1961, the UN organisation helped 97 million people last year, distributing 15 billion rations to people in 88 countries last year. The numbers are dizzying but only a fraction of the total number in need. Despite making progress over the past three decades, the UN’s goal to eradicate hunger by 2030 appears out of reach if current trends continue, according to experts. Women and children are usually those most at risk. War can be caused by hunger, but hunger is also a consequence of war, with people living in areas of conflict three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries at peace, the WFP says.

2. Does WFP have any activities in India? What are they?

In India, there are a number of initiatives like improving nutrition, establishing best practices and enhancing availability and consumption under ICDS. Secondly, the programme supports rice fortification and it demonstrates best practices for states to scale up. Efforts are on with the government to help improve on mid-day meal which is not the same in every area. WFP is introducing innovations into safety net programme like PDS. For example, they have developed prototypes of a grain ATM which is similar to a regular ATM used to dispense cash. Beneficiaries will not have to rely on the shopkeepers for ration or take a day off from work to stand in the queue and collect ration. They can go to the grain ATM and procure it as per their convenience. Currently, WFP is working in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Kerala and wants to expand in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand.

3. What are the biggest challenges India faces over food plan?

According to reports, India has positive support programmes so that has been a blessing but we need to look after vulnerable people including those who have lost jobs and make sure everyone is getting food. Secondly, we need to continuously work toward improving nutrition intake. Thirdly, we need to support small enterprises. Remember, recently a video of Baba Ka Dhaba went viral on social media where a Dhaba owner is crying because his earnings are nil due to the pandemic. You all came to help but there are thousands of Dhabas and small enterprises that need help. From salon owners, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, everyone has been affected and we citizens need to take care. India must join hands in humanity and support and help each other.

4. How has Covid-19 impacted India in terms of zero hunger and nutrition targets?

The loss of food is one of the biggest challenges right now. The government is putting efforts and providing support but the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) that provides free food grains to people will end in November end. Probably, that needs to be extended and observe what’s happening. It is also important to catch employment schemes and job opportunities.

5. India is one of the largest producers of food in the world but still it has the largest number of malnourished people. Why so?

As experts point out, availability of food alone is not a guarantee for food security or nutrition security. There are other things like access – people need to have the purchasing power to buy food and buy enough food. The challenge in India is people eat cereals but they are not eating diversified food like vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, all round. To address this, a lot of efforts are being made like POSHAN Abhiyaan initiated by the Prime Minister; food fortification to provide extra nutrition to people; mid-day meal scheme for school students. Malnutrition is a result of food, water, personal hygiene and sanitation. Hygiene and sanitation were missing which is why the government the toilet programme (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan) and now efforts are being made for access to water as well.

Another problem is the culture. Culture also acts as a barrier. WFP survey found that women eat at the end as a result of which they eat leftovers and sometimes sleep on an empty stomach. There are other taboos like pregnant women or nourishing mother should not eat a particular food and that restrains them from getting enough nutrition. Then there is a caste system; people don’t touch eggs and meat as a result of which the required nutrition levels are not met. The first 1,000 days of life are crucial for overall development and well-being which is why an expecting mother needs extra nutrition. A lack of nutrition in the mother leads to the birth of an undernourished child. Therefore, good food, sanitation, health and education, all play a pivotal role in eradicating malnutrition.

6. What steps can we take to achieve the goal of zero hunger and malnutrition-free India?

Firstly, ensuring people have access to food and livelihood. Secondly, continued food support is required. Maybe diversify or increase support to them by providing not only wheat or rice but also pulses or cash. Thirdly, in a number of states, government programmes are not getting much attention. Therefore, we need to examine and provide backup support to them. Fourthly, support elderlies, and women who are unable to earn during the pandemic. Lastly, we also need to think about people employed in the tourism industry. India has fantastic tourist attractions but right now, the industry has been hit hard. People working in that industry have lost their job. So, how we help these people? It is important to think about different segments of the population.

7. Is climate change linked to food security? What’s the impact of it in India?

As reports claim, climate has a direct link to agriculture and to the food system. Therefore it has a huge implication and inter-relationship. In India and many parts of the world, farmers depend on rainfall for crops. Imagine the impact of no rainfall. At the same time, too much rain and flood is also an issue. There is also a problem of drought and cyclones. All disasters directly impact farmers. As a result of climate change, the whole monsoon season has shifted from June –July to July-August and that has led to a delay in harvest.

Air pollution like in Delhi has health implications. So, reducing emissions, carbon, moving to green energy is really important. India is taking a very good step towards it like the International Solar alliance, switching to electric vehicles. There are needs for expansion of these efforts.

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