Even before the pandemic began last year, a greater part of the world was already facing the problem of malnutrition. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), 21.3 per cent of the children were stunted due to lack of nutrition in 2019. 4 out of 5 of these stunted children lived in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The Coronavirus pandemic has put into spotlight the issue of hunger as one of the major calamities which could follow the economic devastation in the South countries. Keeping the threat in mind, the United Nations has declared 2021, as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.

Amidst the continuing outbreak of infections across India, the Aahar Kranti (Food Revolution) initiative was launched aiming to spread grass root level awareness on the nitty gritty of nourishment. It was launched on April 13, 2021 by the Union Health Minister of India, Dr Harsh Vardhan. It comes with a message “Uttam Aahaar Uttam Vichaar” or `Good Diet-Good Cognition’.

Designed to fight ‘hunger and diseases in abundance’, the mission is based on the success of the Polio awareness program which used schools and teachers to deliver the message. Under this mission, teachers will be trained on nutrition topics and material will be made available in all vernacular languages to reach the hinterland. The main focus of the education will be on better awareness about nutrition requirements, and also better agriculture to foster the needs of the family.

While Global Indian Scientists’ & Technocrats’ Forum and Vijnana Bharati designed the initiative, later joined by many national and state partners, the aim of the programme is not just confined to India. Both organizations are looking to promote this initiative in the global South which shares similar problems including malnourishment. This brings into picture the utility of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries.

Since 1955, when the Bandung Asian-African Conference led to the formation of Non-Aligned Movement, the organization has a host of measures to address issues of the Global South collectively. Last year, in the wake of 75th anniversary of the UN, the Foreign Minister of India addressed the Ministerial meeting of the NAM stressing that “we must work to reduce the socio-economic impact of this pandemic on the most vulnerable sections of our society. NAM’s unique tradition of promoting South-South cooperation can provide a way out as societies look to rebuild and regenerate in the wake of this crisis.”

Non-Aligned countries constitute almost all of the Global South. It stretches from the ASEAN bloc, includes South Asia, the Middle East, almost all of the African continent, and stretches on to the Western-most countries in Latin America. The NAM countries might have diverse political views but NAM architecture has done exceedingly well in avoiding the differences whilst focusing on the collective problems.

The issue of malnourishment and hunger hunts almost all of the NAM nations. With the West and other developed countries turning inward and a global showdown for a rebalancing of power raising its ugly head again, the NAM provides the perfect opportunity for the 120 Member States to come together to tackle the socio-economic issues in a coordinated manner.
Each government in the Global South devises annual plans to eliminate hunger and promote sustainable agriculture, which is a major UN Sustainable Development Goal target. The best way to address this challenge is by coordination. India took the lead in addressing the needs of the South countries through its equitable Vaccine distribution to cover the most vulnerable population. It has supplied over 60 million doses of Coronavirus Vaccines to more than 70 countries, most of them in the NAM bloc.

Similarly, India hopes to export the Aahar Kranti Mission architecture to like-minded countries in an equitable way of meeting collective requirements through combined efforts. Besides, it augers well for the Narendra Modi government, which aims to become the ‘Viswaguru’ (universal master), through its peaceful developmental approach, for the benefits of mankind.

India’s open-mindedness in helping South countries is also practical. It is observed that India produces twice the required number of calories but still suffers from malnourishment. Awareness programs are thus essential to address the ignorance of public and raise the standard of diet. As demand rises, a shift in agriculture is later expected too. India already imports Pulses and has various arrangements with certain African countries like Mozambique for partnership. India’s experience in developing the human capital to mitigate the challenge of hunger should be used wisely and to the fullest by the NAM countries too. NAM is set to play a definitive role in the coming decade where countries will need to become more self-sufficient as industrial nations recover from the pandemic. Apart from building linkages, India’s initiative provides an alternative way of greater South-South cooperation to fulfill the obligations to people, which forms one of the ten founding principles of NAM.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

Photo Credit : https://twitter.com/aahaarkranti/header_photoAahaar Kranti Mission: A Vaccine for Global Malnutrition Woes