As you read this opening sentence, and reluctantly internalise the ghastly statistics that for every 10 secs, a child dies of hunger(1), you may not dare to read it again, due to the sheer guilt, although you may feel helpless.
Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore once quoted “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of Man” But this may be a thing of the past and God may reconsider his choice, yet again. Feel it is too early to comment? Well, the Global infertility rates now stand anywhere between 8%-10% with 60-80 million couples every year suffering from infertility(2). To place things in a comparative context, the lives of approx. 3 million kids are also lost each year due to malnutrition before they reach the age of 5 years(3)
Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) are set up across various Hospitals in various countries, including India, with an aim to offer hygienic and calorie-rich food to kids suffering from severe acute malnutrition. As per the data accessible, at the end of the year 2018, around 1151 of them were found across India (4). These numbers are increasing year on year, also reflecting the increasing burden and maybe the case with other countries too. In fact, it is a big disgrace to the progress made by mankind, if at all, considering their numbers going up.
Perhaps an association between the rates of malnutrition and infertility also needs to be uncovered. A quick search shows an unbelievable association of infertility rates surging year on year in regions lacking on ground commitment towards maternal and child nutrition and those which are far from the goals initiated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015 (5).
In a technologically driven world, where disruptions are celebrated in every field impacting our lives, it is hard to imagine how to realign our commitment to anything sustainable. I would recommend that we rethink the terminology of SDGs and replace it with Expediting Developmental Goals (EDGs), if we can, which is more invigorating and full of energy, besides reflecting the emergent nature of the problem.
The association between malnutrition and infertility though dotted is very strong. There are many studies showing their interdependence (6). We need to stress and reiterate the point that such correlation is larger than ever, unfathomable, yet measurable, and only a sustained multi-stakeholder commitment may allow us to explore this in granular details.
The on-going global outrage on inequities in healthcare access based on racial discrimination is also a case in point (7). “Black lives matter” an emotional campaign triggered by the inhumane act in the US, provided a flashpoint in resetting the narrative on providing equitable opportunities in countries suffering from racism. All that a hungry child needs is appropriate Nutrition, and not judgements and unfair victimisation based on the colour of the skin, because “Lives of Black children matter too”
The burden of inappropriate Nutrition is across ages. The current Global Nutrition landscape has mushroomed with malnourished kids, overly Saccharinate teenagers and Toxic-Caffeinated adults added with food adulteration for anything palatable/edible in between.
To add to the mounting trouble are paralysis at the level of Policy, Processes, Political and Personnel fronts that has aggravated the situation, with no solution in the acceptable range of imagination. We are suffering from a double whammy of Global strategic excesses and local/regional grass-root level implementation inefficiencies.
With a few, yet significant numbers of the developed countries showing negative growth due to infertility and kids in the developing countries dying due to malnutrition, days are not far for population stagnation, placing the eternal and resounding quote mentioned above into irrelevance.
Unfortunately, while the focus has remained long enough to bridge this gap, much work needs to be done through a totalitarian, inclusive and wholesome approach.
Come, each one of us as co-passengers have a larger role to play, starting with awareness, to reach the destination of our choice, welcomed by the innocent chuckles and smiles of children carried by their mothers with a glint of gratitude in their eyes!
2. Katole A, Saoji AV. Prevalence of primary infertility and its associated risk factors in urban population of central India: A community-based cross-sectional study. Indian J Community Med 2019;44:337-41
6. Silvestris E, Lovero D, Palmirotta R. Nutrition and Female Fertility: An Interdependent Correlation. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019;10:346. Published 2019 Jun 7.