Malnutrition is creating a void in the overall health of the population during the Covid-19 pandemic, experts have pointed out.
According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is directly or indirectly responsible for 35% of deaths among children under five.
The women and child welfare department ministry had revealed that as many as 9,27,606 severely acute malnourished children between the age of six months to six years were identified across the country till November last year.
During the first wave, several NGOs and other agencies were distributing food packets and grocery kits to people which helped many but the situation was different in the second wave where providing beds, ventilators and medicines to the needy was the centrepiece.
Yellamma works as a house help in Bengaluru and her husband Sharanu is a cab driver. They live with their three-year-old son. Last year, they left for their hometown in Bijapur district during the lockdown and returned to Bengaluru after things got better. But this time, they decided to wait and watch the situation. “What will we do going back home? We don’t have any farm there. That’s why we migrated to Bengaluru. At least some NGOs or others give us food and ration kits here, we will be in a very bad situation if we stayed in the village. So we decided to stay back and wait this time. I have lost job as the apartment where I used to work is not allowing us now. My husband is also jobless as vehicular movement has stopped. We are completely dependent on the donations,” she said.
The food the needy get may have satiated their hunger, but it has not benefited their health, said Farhana Afroz, chief dietician, Sagar Hospitals- DSI, Bengaluru. People are losing muscle mass because they are not having a complete meal, which should have proteins, vitamins, fat along with carbohydrates and other necessary substances that the body needs. But finding one meal itself has been a struggle for many and a complete meal is too much to ask for in such a situation. The meal donations are generally rice. And a lot of people have been eating just that three times a for months now. They are only consuming carbohydrates which will certainly create an imbalance in their system. Vegetables, pulses, fruits are missing from their plates, said Afroz.
The plight of students is a different story altogether, Afroz added. “A considerable number of students who stay in Bengaluru for classes or exams have continued to stay post lockdown thinking this may end soon. Some might depend on online food delivery but even that can’t happen for all three meals. So most of the time they end up eating Maggi, Pasta or any easy to cook food. These are definitely not healthy and does more harm than help,” she added.
She also pointed out that not having varieties of food will have its own repercussions on one’s health. It also affects immunity as protein forms the baseline which is absent in the diet.