Studies show that despite the impressive economic progress India has made in the last decade, malnutrition continues to be an all-pervasive problem.
With more than one third of the world’s malnourished children living in India, the country was ranked 20th amongst leading countries with a serious hunger problem by the Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report of 2015. This places India at the third place among South Asian countries, behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) has also found that the proportion of underweight children in the country is a staggering 29.4%, with an alarming 38.7% of stunted children.
Malnutrition has severely damaging long-term impacts including poor immunity against infectious diseases, low productivity and higher mortality rates.
These disturbing facts are what make young Ammatul Fatima’s solution to malnutrition all the more important.
Ammatul Fatima, a research scholar with the University of Allahabad’s Department of Home Science is introducing India to the highly nutritious green algae ‘Spirulina’ in biscuit form.
Image for representation only. Source: Wikipedia
Referring to the number of malnourished in rural India, Fatima said: “In Uttar Pradesh, especially Allahabad and its surrounding rural pockets, the condition of children and women is dismal. Most affected are the adolescent girls.”
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“I wanted to make something which is handy to carry, easily digestible, cheap and easily accepted in masses and what better thing could we have than biscuits,” Fatima told The Times of India.
Spirulina, a type of algae, is counted among the ‘Super Food’ group as it is a concentrated source of vitamins, protein, antioxidants and other nutrients.
In the West, the use of Spirulina in biscuits, smoothies and drinks is a fairly common phenomenon. However, this is likely to be the first time that Spirulina biscuits have been made for the sole purpose of fighting malnutrition in India.
Fatima has also tested the effectiveness of the biscuits on individuals with low haemoglobin. The 45-day-long experiment found that individuals who ate the biscuits showed an improved haemoglobin level of 9.42 mg/dl when compared to an initial reading of 7.94 mg/dl.
Fatima also assessed the quality and effectiveness of the biscuits in a food lab. “The analysis indicated that the fortified biscuits were significantly high in various nutrients. It contains higher percentage of moisture, proteins, fat, crude fibre, ash, calcium, phosphorus and iron in comparison to the control samples,” explains Prof Srivastava, Head of Department at the University of Allahabad.
“At least now we have a ray of hope for all those young girls and boys who are fighting with malnutrition,” Fatima said, adding that introducing these biscuits in the mid-deal meal provided by the government will prove to be easy and efficient.