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By Aastha Sharma
July 27th, 2018


Every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of Nutrient deficiency. Combating Nutrient deficiency in all its forms is one of the greatest global health challenges. World Health Organisation states that women, infants, children and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition. Optimizing nutrition early in life—including the 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday—ensures the best possible start in life, with long-term benefits. Also, nutrient deficiency increases healthcare costs, reduces productivity and slows economic growth, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and ill health. World Health Organisation aims for a world free of all forms of malnutrition, where all people achieve health and wellbeing. Mahmoud Fathalla, former president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said “Women are not dying of diseases we can’t treat. [...] They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”

  •   An estimated 303,000 women died in pregnancy and childbirth in 2015
  •   An estimated 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception
  •   An estimated 22 million unsafe abortions take place worldwide each year
  •   An estimated 5.9 million children under age 5 died in 2015 Almost half of deaths are linked to Undernutrition

The focus in the first phase of this project is urban and rural India where more than half the women and girls are unaware of Nutrient Deficiency. The reason why women are more likely than men to be victims of nutrient deficiency and hidden hunger is that their access to food is often undermined by gender-based discrimination. In rural India, tradition dictates that women eat last after all the male members and children have been fed. Also, in times of financial crisis, women are the first to sacrifice their food, to feed their families. But in millions of poverty-stricken rural households, it has had an unintended consequence – chronic malnutrition among women, especially if they’re menstruating, lactating, or pregnant.

It’s human nature: we act to reality, not stories.

Mohita Gupta, Chief Development Officer- Business Strategy & CSR who grew up in Hyderabad and lived in London, knew that malnutrition and hidden hunger prevalent in women in both rural and urban India is a growing healthcare crisis. But for a long time, the outcome of health of Indian women and girls both near and far away from her, while distressing, was something she felt unaided to transform. “You know that nutrient deficiency exists, and you want to help,” she said. “But you also feel confused and like you can’t truly engage or help drive real impact when you’re living away in London.”

That all changed when Mohita moved to Rudrapur after receiving her second Masters Degree from London School of Economics. Powered by education and entrepreneurial determination, she pioneered BE YOUNG, whose mission is to Eradicate Nutrient Deficiency. During the course of daily work, a staff told Mohita the story of her daughter who had attended school every day for weeks. She seemed to be budding in the encouraging environment of her school. But one day, she didn’t go to study. She missed the next day, and the next; she couldn’t go after. The mother had no idea what happened to her daughter; it wasn’t until later that the wellness members found that the girl had “hidden hunger- Anaemia” which indicates a chronic lack of micronutrients whose effects may not be immediately apparent but whose consequences may be long-term and profound. This is an issue of critical importance in India, a country with rates of malnutrition worse than sub-Saharan Africa: 14.5% of its population goes hungry, 38.4% of its children under five are underweight, and 51.4% of its women in reproductive ages are anaemic.

Mohita was astonished. It is a common misperception that people residing in the urban areas eat a nutritionally balanced diet and are not prey to hidden hunger, the state of being adequately fed but undernourished due to the lack of nutrients. However, this is not the case; indeed, the current commonness of hidden hunger in these regions gives cause for concern. “Learning about this girl’s story in a real context inspired me to contribute resources I could to help pledge #beyoundbharat under Be Young initiative to bring a tangible impact on health of young girls’ and women in India”, Mohita said.


The next step was understanding the nutritional practices and ideas that the community valued, resisted, practised, promoted and considered taboo. Attention was also paid to gaining deeper insights into the local economy, crop growing patterns, seasonal food availability and coping mechanism when food was scarce.

Many of the Be Young wellness members felt a special pull to the #beyoungbharat because they could relate it to themselves and their communities. Women across India consume 13% lesser protein than men. According to dietary recommendations, the energy contribution of protein, fats and carbohydrates for an Indian adult should be in the ratio of 20:30:50. However, the consumption of protein has remained consistently lower amongst women in India as compared to men. Protein deficiency may cause symptoms like a slow metabolism, trouble losing weight, fatigue, poor concentration, and mood swings among others. It is also a lifestyle risk that reduces immunity. Because women are more prone to osteoporosis - a condition in which bones become weak and brittle - than men, lower protein intake can make them even more prone to fractures. The disparity in protein consumption was found highest in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh followed by Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and others.

The team started working towards #beyoungbharat from within our community. In April 2018, the nutrition needs and requirements of women working at the factory in industrial area of Pantnagar was assessed and with support of the company, protein milk is being provided to all women at our facility. This helped to quickly identify how many women are willing to advance their health and take action to uproot nutrient deficiency. The many advantages of this approach are clearly delineated by the simple example that teaching communities to use easy to eat nutritional solutions to eliminate nutrient deficiencies is more empowering and sustainable than just eating food.

This is just the beginning. Realizing the“#BEYOUNGBHARAT” vision for women, children and today’s 1.8 billion young people— almost a quarter of the world’s population—will change their lives for the better.

#beyoungbharatteam is extremely engaged. It is building the platform, which has a more complex functionality, to be applicable to scale to help solve some of the world’s greatest nutritional challenges.