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Health and Nutrition of India’s Labour Force and COVID-19 Challenges

Can the “post-COVID-19 normal” emerge better for India’s food supply and demand management, with a clear goal of zero hunger? Presently contributing one-third of the global undernutrition burden, a daunting challenge that the country must overcome now is of resuming broader based economic growth with a healthy labour force. Given this, India needs a data-driven exit and post-exit strategy from the COVID-19 lockdown that will not only mitigate the immediate food crisis faced by millions of poor households, but also reduce the long-term structural bottlenecks that limit poor households’ access to food.

While handling the COVID-19 crisis, will India make use of the opportunity to address the long-standing challenges of health and nutrition of low-income households, particularly of women and children, which are central to the three prongs of the health sector, food sector, and the macroeconomy? From the macroeconomic perspective, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated a global gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $9 trillion. A small fraction of that invested in pandemic preparedness would have had a large pay-off.

Better supply and demand management of food would: (i) avoid the immediate food crisis for millions posed by logistical issues between the farm and the plate (Pangestu 2020); (ii) contribute to effective demand by reducing long-term, structural bottlenecks inhibiting supply reaching vulnerable consumers; (iii) contribute to the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are important since India presently contributes about one-third of the global undernutrition burden; and (iv) prepare India to avert future disasters while resuming broader based economic growth.

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Updated On : 23rd Jul, 2020

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