Covid lockdown hit women’s nutrition in India: US study
Representational Image (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)
THE nationwide lockdown imposed in India in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic has left a negative impact on women’s nutrition in the country, a new study conducted by a group of researchers in the United States has said.
According to the study conducted by Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) in four economically backward districts in India – Maharajganj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Munger in its neighbouring state of Bihar and Kandhamal and Kalahandi in the eastern coastal state of Odisha – has shown a decline in domestic food expenses and women’s dietary diversity in May 2020, compared to the corresponding month in 2019, particularly for non-staples like meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
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The study published in the latest issue of Economia Politica journal said this decline has been witnessed despite the special public distribution system (PDS), direct transfer and ration from anganwadis (a rural child care centres) reaching 80 per cent, 50 per cent and 30 per cent of the surveyed households, respectively.
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“Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence of women’s disproportionate vulnerability to economic shocks, the impact of a staple grain focused safety net programme, and restricted markets on the access and availability of diverse nutritious foods,” the paper, which makes a case for policy reforms towards PDS diversification to include nutrition-rich foods and market reforms to remove supply-side bottlenecks and expansion of direct benefit transfers for healthy food access, said.
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“Women’s diets were lacking in diverse foods even before the pandemic, but Covid-19 has further exacerbated the situation,” Soumya Gupta, a research economist at TCI, who co-authored the study along with Prabhu Pingali, TCI director; Mathew Abraham, assistant director; and consultant Payal Seth, said.
“Any policies addressing the impact of the pandemic on nutritional outcomes must do so through a gendered lens that reflects the specific, and often persistent, vulnerabilities faced by women,” she said in a statement issued by Cornell University.
The researcher said that policymakers should recognise the disproportionate impact that the pandemic and other disruptive events have on women’s nutrition by bolstering safety-net programmes to ensure that they meet the requirements of women and other marginalised groups.
(With PTI inputs)