Mitras Analysis of News : 8-6-2017

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1.What explains India’s Child malnutrition? (Live Mint)

2.Water as a weapon of war! (BBC, Down to Earth)

3.SCO SUMMIT (The Indian Express) 

 

1.What explains India’s Child malnutrition? (Live Mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the possible reasons and ways to eradicate child malnutrition from India.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • World Bank data indicates that India has one of the world’s highest demographics of children suffering from malnutrition said to be double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences. India’s Global Hunger Index India ranking of 67 the 80 nations with the worst hunger situation places us even below North Korea or Sudan.
  • 44% of children under the age of 5 are underweight, while 72% of infants have anaemia. India needs a lot more to be done to tackle the menace of malnutrition and NGOs are plugging the gaps in government schemes.

Malnutrition in India

  • Malnutrition among under-five children is a major public health problem in India. This is reflected by the fact that the prevalence of under-weight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • It is also observed that the malnutrition problem in India is a concentrated phenomenon that is, a relatively small number of states, districts, and villages account for a large share of the malnutrition burden only 5 states and 50% of villages account for about 80% of the malnutrition burden.
  • Although India has witnessed significant progress in its battle against child malnutrition over the past decade, the progress has been quite uneven, and child malnutrition rates still remain high in many parts of the country, data from the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows.
  • Such high level of child malnutrition imposes a huge economic cost. Malnutrition accounted for losses worth at least 8% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in the 20th century because of “direct productivity losses, losses via poorer cognition, and losses via reduced schooling.

Possible reasons for India’s malnourishment problem

  • Apart from poverty, there seems to be three key differences between districts with high and low levels of child malnutrition: the status of women, the kind of diets fed to children, and access to toilets.
  • One of the primary reasons for children being undernourished in the country is that often their mothers are undernourished. One in five women are underweight in India. Women who are themselves undernourished or have a pregnancy at an early age, are at a greater risk of delivering low birth-weight babies, who are nutritionally disadvantaged right at birth.
  • Also, women without education or without much voice in their families often fail to ensure adequate diets for their children even when there is adequate food in the household. Districts with a high proportion of women who are illiterate and who have married early tend to have high ratios of undernourished children, the latest data shows.
  • Districts where the proportion of children receiving an age-appropriate diet is low also tend to have high ratios of undernourished children.
  • The link between sanitation and under nutrition is even stronger. Districts with low levels of access to toilets have much higher rates of child undernourishment compared to districts with relatively high levels of access to toilets. In a densely populated country such as ours, the lack of sanitation contributes to the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Children fall prey more easily to such diseases, and tend to lose their ability to absorb nutrients, leading to undernutrition.

What should have been done (Way ahead)

  • Deworming: The Copenhagen Consensus has recommended deworming to help reduce malnutrition. Intestinal worms are the most common infection among people in the developing world. There are around 2.3 billion children and adults affected – nearly half of the population of the world’s poorest countries. The worms can drain essential nutrients that a child eats, causing malnutrition. In adults, infection with worms damages health and makes it difficult to work. Among children, the effects can be particularly serious. In addition to making children weak and sick, infection and malnutrition can hinder learning and development.
  • Micronutrient fortification: Food fortification, which adds essential vitamins and minerals to foods, is an important strategy to fight malnutrition. The cost of food fortification to reduce widespread malnutrition can be as low as a few cents per individual per year for adding iodine to salt, and up to US$0.25 for more complex vitamins and minerals.
  • Biofortification: A diverse diet rich in micronutrients is out of reach for many of the world’s poor. Because foods that are high in micronutrients such as vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meats are expensive, people with little resources rely primarily on a few starchy staples that are rich in energy but not micronutrients. By increasing the micronutrient content of these energy-rich staples, micronutrient intakes among the poor can be increased.
  • Research and development to increase crop yields: The 2012 Copenhagen Consensus has recommended increasing annual global public investment in agricultural research and development to help reduce the number of hungry people by more than 200 million. Researchers said the effort would lessen the prevalence of hunger in 2050 by 63 percent compared to 2010, taking global population growth into account. The panel said greater agricultural production would help bring down food prices for the world’s poor. Although the world already produces enough food to feed everyone, researchers said it was important to be vigilant against the threats that climate change posed to agriculture.
  • Nutritional planning: This involves political commitment by the government. A well planned and well executed long term project can accelerate the developmental process and the benefits can be rewarding and permanent. Nutritional planning involves formulation of a nutrition policy and overall long term planning to improve production and supplies of food, ensure its equitable distribution and programs to increase the purchasing power of people. This may include, land reforms,proper guidance in agriculture to help farmers to get better yields from their lands, help in proper marketing of farm produce.

 Improved health care system: Infections like malaria, measles and diarrhea are prevalent in our society and they precipitate acute malnutrition among children and infants. A good health care system that provides immunization, oral rehydration, periodic deworming, early diagnosis and proper treatment of common illnesses can go a long way in preventing malnutrition in the society.

Nutrition education:

  • People can be educated on
  • The nutritional quality of common foods
  • Importance and nutritional quality of various locally available and culturally accepted low cost foods
  • Importance of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuing to breast feed up to two years or beyond.
  • Damage caused by irrational beliefs and cultural practices of feeding
  • Recipes for preparing proper weaning foods and good supplementary food from locally available low cost foods.
  • Importance of including milk, eggs, meat or pulses in sufficient quantities in the diet to enhance the net dietary protein value.
  • Importance of feeding children and adults during illness
  • Importance and advantages of growing a kitchen garden
  • Importance of immunizing their children and following proper sanitation in their day to day life.

Question: What type of scientific improvements can be made in food structure to fight the menace of child malnutrition? 

 

2.Water as a weapon of war! (BBC, Down to Earth)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the potential threats to use water structures as a source to inflict miseries on humankind.GS paper II)

Overview

  • The ongoing war in Syria has destroyed much of the country’s water infrastructure, leaving five million people suffering from a critical water shortage, said UNICEF in a statement.
  • UNICEF accused parties to the conflict for deliberately targeting the country’s scarce water supply and using it as the weapon of war.

 Water as a weapon

  • Fighting between the Syrian army and jihadi rebels has engulfed the source of any population’s most valuable resource: water. The al-Fija spring in Wadi Barada, northwest of Damascus, provides nearly two-thirds of the city’s potable water. Whoever controls the area indirectly controls the lives of the millions of people living in and around the Syrian capital.
  • The disruption to piped water supplies has increased the risk of water-borne diseases, especially among children. The long-duration water cuts have forced families in Damascus, Dera’a, Aleppo, and other areas to rely on dirty water from unregulated and unprotected groundwater sources, exposing children in particular to the risk of contracting diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis, and other diseases
  • According to Unicef, 2.3 million people in Aleppo, 2.5 million in Damacus and 250,000 people in Dera’a are suffering from water crisis. The water misery is particularly acute for millions of displaced families who have to share limited water supplies in over-crowded camps and shelters.
  • Ongoing fighting and violence has severely damaged the water pipelines and other water infrastructure, but the municipal workers and engineers are unable to carry out the necessary repairs. The frequent power cuts further aggravate the crisis since water cannot be pumped out to the public.
  • The war in Syria has worsened the water crisis, and water availability is about half of what it was before the crisis began in 2011, says the UN release. Water availability had decreased from 75 litres to 25 litres per person within just three years after the crisis, stated the UN report.

Analysis of the situation

  • The growing recognition of water’s strategic relevance reflects global developments. In the last three years, the Islamic State (ISIS) captured the Tabqa, Tishrin, Mosul, and Fallujah dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. ISIS subsequently lost control of all of them, but not before using them to flood or starve downstream populations, to pressure them to surrender.
  • Many analysts hope that ISIS will finally be eliminated from Iraq and Syria in the next few months. But that does not mean that the group will disband; on the contrary, it may well relocate to the border areas between Libya and Chad, putting West African cities and water installations at risk.
  • This tactic is not exclusive to ISIS. Extremist groups in South Asia have also threatened to attack water infrastructure. And of course state actors, too, can use water resources to gain a strategic advantage.
  • The importance of water in the twenty-first century – comparable to that of oil in the twentieth – can hardly be overstated. Yet some strategic experts continue to underestimate it. The reality is that oil has alternatives like natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear energy. By contrast, for industry and agriculture as much as for drinking and sanitation, the only alternative to water
  • The consensus on the need to protect water resources and installations in conflict zones is clear. What is less clear is how to do it. Unlike medicines and food packets, water cannot be airdropped into conflict zones. And UN Peacekeeping Forces are badly overstretched.

Way ahead

  • To pave the way for a solution, the UN Security Council will have to declare water a “strategic resource of humanity” and adopt a resolution to protect water resources and installations, similar to Resolution 2286, adopted to protect medical facilities in armed conflicts.
  • In the longer term, countries that share riparian systems will need to establish regional security arrangements to preserve and protect their resources. With collaborative management underpinning collective protection, water, often a source of competition and conflict, could become a facilitator of peace and cooperation.

Question:  What urgent steps are needed on the part of UN so that water cannot be used as a potential source of weapon? 

 

3.SCO SUMMIT (The Indian Express)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on forthcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, 2017, will be held from 8-9 June in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
  • The summit will endorse the full membership of both India and Pakistan into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. SCO will represent over 40 per cent of humanity and nearly 20 per cent of the global GDP. India’s membership in the SCO will provide a welcome opportunity for India’s leadership.
  • There is huge potential exists for SCO to play a more substantive role in promoting security, peace, economic development, connectivity, energy security, trade, and investment within the region and beyond.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, founded in 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
  • The SCO main goals are to
  • Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states;
  • Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
  • Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
  • Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order

Member countries

  • The SCO presently comprises six member states, namely Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan;
  • The SCO counts six observer states, namely Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan;
  • There are six dialogue partners, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
  • In the 2015 summit in Ufa in Russia, the group had formally adopted a resolution which started the procedure to admit India and Pakistan into the SCO. Both the countries signed Memorandum of Obligations to join the organisation.

SCO and India

  • The six-nation security grouping has a critical role for peace and stability in resource-rich central Asia and Afghanistan.
  • The summit will fulfill India’s long-time desire to attain full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India has been an observer of SCO meeting since 2005 and has participated in ministerial-level meetings, which focused on security and economic co-operation in the Eurasian region. With India gaining a full membership, the country aims to achieve regional and global stability and prosperity.
  • The prime reason for the delay of was the initial opposition from China to India’s membership. Beijing went on to ensure that Pakistan too became a full member along with India.
  • India will seek to bridge the gap with Central Asian countries on issues related to trade, connectivity and energy through the membership of SCO, terrorism will be a key focus area for the government.
  • Joining the SCO as a full member will enable India to be a part of one of the world’s most powerful regional groups and increase the level of multilateral economic cooperation and the flow of trade and energy resources. It will also align India’s national security interests with that of region’s countries, especially of Russia and China.
  • India being one of the largest energy consuming countries in the world is also likely to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia once it becomes part of the SCO. As many of the current members of the six-nation grouping have huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
  • Full membership will also enable New Delhi to closely interact with the SCO’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS) based in the Uzbekistan capital Tashkent and other regular meetings of the organizations including ministerial level trade and economic summits.
  • One of the challenges India is likely to be faced within SCO is the endorsement of China’s OBOR, which India says impinges on its sovereignty in the form of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, by all other member states. The proposed corridor will link Kashgar in Xinjiang, China, to the Gwadar port. Being in the SCO, India would not be able to stay out of China’s proposed connectivity and infrastructural projects.

Way ahead

  • As India’s foreign policy emphasizes on developing healthy relations with immediate neighbors and promote cooperation on mutually benefiting way while ensuring peace and security. Thus SCO is an ideal platform to execute and further India’s foreign policy aspirations.
  • India should use the SCO atmosphere for building better convergences with China and Russia as well as to minimize the intensity of China-Pakistan alignment which actually undercuts India’s direct access to Eurasia.
  • Further the SCO provides a rare platform for the militaries of India and Pakistan to share multilateral tables, join anti-terror drills and military exercises under the SCO framework. This may have some sobering effect on Indo-Pak relations and regional peace.

Question:  What is the viability of SCO to bring peace to Central Asian region? How India can contribute to SCO?

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