Think Learn & Perform (TLP)

The Only Dedicated Platform for UPSC Mains Answer Writing

Day 67 – Q 1. What do you understand by ‘hidden hunger’? How big is the problem of hidden hunger in India? What are the remedial measures to address hidden hunger? Discuss.

1. What do you understand by ‘hidden hunger’? How big is the problem of hidden hunger in India? What are the remedial measures to address hidden hunger? Discuss. 

छिपी हुई भूखसे आप क्या समझते हैं? भारत में छिपी भूख की समस्या कितनी बड़ी है? छिपी हुई भूख को दूर करने के उपाय क्या हैं? चर्चा करें।


Hidden hunger is a condition of lack of minerals and vitamins in human body. The nutrition deficiency is caused not due to the lack of food, but due to the lack of food which is rich in nutrients. In other words, it is micro-nutritional deficiency caused by lack of balance in an otherwise full diet. 


Hidden hunger is mainly due to the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Its effects can be devastating, leading to mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and even death.

As per FAO reports, hidden hunger affects around 2 billion people or every 1 in 3 persons all over the world. African, Sub-Saharan and South Asian subcontinent regions are hotspots where the prevalence of hidden hunger is high. Even in the developed countries, micronutrient deficiency, particularly iron and iodine deficiency are widespread.

In India – as per the reports of UNICEF, over 80 per cent adolescents suffer from “hidden hunger” and less than 10 per cent of boys and girls consume fruits and eggs daily. 

The issue with hidden hunger is that in most of the cases, the family is unaware of the malnutrition being developed which makes it harder to tackle the issue. For instance, Night blindness, a condition afflicting millions of pregnant women and children, stems from low intake of foods rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin A is largely prevalent in India.

Also, Budget constraints limit access to nutrient-rich foods for many families, who are unaware or unable to afford a nutritious diet.

Remedial measures: 

  • Commercial food fortification: in common dietary foods. Also, as fortified foods mainly reach Urban people, it must be subsidized or made mandatory to reach rural areas as well. Some of the examples are
    • When fortified with vitamin A and D, milk, which remains a staple for many Indians, can help alleviate dietary deficiencies when supplementation is not available. E.g. Milk fortification project by NDDB.
    • Salt fortification is already been done to address Iodine deficiency in India.
    • adding B vitamins, iron, and/or zinc to wheat flour and adding vitamin A to cooking oil and sugar.
  • Diversifying diets: dietary diversification ensures a healthy diet that contains a balanced and adequate combination of macronutrients, essential micronutrients and other food-based substances such as dietary fiber. A variety of cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods provides adequate nutrition for most people.
  • Biofortification: involving breeding food crops, using conventional or transgenic methods, to increase their micronutrient content. E.g. vitamin A maize, vitamin A cassava, iron beans, iron pearl millet, zinc rice, and zinc wheat.
  • Supplementation: through government schemes like the folic acid tablet distribution to pregnant women to address iron deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency. Similarly, vitamin A tablets to children every 6 months in early years and so on.
  • Community management ad acute malnutrition (CMAM) strategy where in the community work together to identify and address the micronutrient deficiency.
  • Implementing programs like Ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF) of UNICEF, Eat Safe project of FSSAI which aims at easy availability of fortified food.
  • Improve inter0ministerial coordination and implement integrated nutritional schemes like Poshan Abhiyan which bring a holistic approach to address nutritional deficiency both micro and macro.
  • Modification in food subsidy schemes like NFSA, Mid-day meal scheme and so on to include diverse dietary food which provide both micro and macro nutrients required.
  • Awareness campaigns to sensitize people the graveness of the issue.


SDG 2 which is the target of Zero hunger would be complete only when hidden hunger is also addressed. Thus, the government has to adopt a holistic and integrated approach to address the issue.

Note: Make note of the data (hidden hunger data is not often available). Also, know the difference between malnutrition and nutrition deficiency due to hidden hunger which deficiency of micro nutrients.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email