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Civil Society appeals to policymakers to declare malnutrition as a medical emergency

Effective interventions are the need of the hour to treat Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) Almost eight million children in India are severely malnourished and have nine times higher risk of death compared to normal children. These children deserve to live. In January 2015 over 100 organisations and individuals collectively urged the government to take action […]

Effective interventions are the need of the hour to treat Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)

Almost eight million children in India are severely malnourished and have nine times higher risk of death compared to normal children. These children deserve to live. In January 2015 over 100 organisations and individuals collectively urged the government to take action and save the lives of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) through the Generation Nutrition Campaign.

As the next call for action, Action Against Hunger (ACF) India, Fight Hunger Foundation, Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security and UNICEF, organised a “Town Hall Meeting: Increasing commitment and accountability to combat Acute under-nutrition – A Framework for Action”, on July 22, 2015 in New Delhi. The event sessions witnessed active participation of several partner members/ organisations, government, socio-development and corporate organisations and educational institutes such as A R Nanda, Former Health Secretary and Vice Chair of Coalition for Food & Nutrition Security; S B Agnihotri, Former Coordination Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat; Keshav Desiraju, Former Health Secretary; N K Arora, Executive Director, INCLEN; Laurette Dubé, Professor, University of McGill, Canada; Ashok Bharti, Chair, NACDOR; K Srinivas Rao, Reliance Foundation. Deliberations of this meeting led up to an ‘Advisory Note’ incorporating recommendations of the meeting, to be shared with the Leadership of India. 

Commenting on the current undernutrition status of the country, Dr Rajiv Tandon, Deputy Country Head, ACF-India said, “As per UNICEF’s Rapid Survey of Children (RSOC) some Indian States have made remarkable progress in battling malnourishment, while others have made little progress despite a high economic growth. Amongst the worst-afflicted are adivasi/ dalits/ rural groups where adolescent girls have a low body-mass index and a greater likelihood of giving birth to undernourished and small babies.  Evidence from States like Maharashtra shows that focus on care for girls and women, have moved forward in breaking long-term cycles of malnutrition. Proper nutrition for girls and women ought to be a priority for India.”

To address the issue of SAM burden in India, ACF collaborated with the Washington University School of Medicine to develop a novel, indigenous therapeutic food in the state of Rajasthan, which is both safe and palatable. This local therapeutic food was prepared from ingredients available in Rajasthan, by local food producers in Jaipur and to examine the acceptability of this alternative formulation compared to the standard product, a feeding study was conducted by the organisation in Baran, Rajasthan.  Results from the acceptability study were released during the Town Hall Meeting. It indicated that an optimized local therapeutic food developed and produced locally in Rajasthan was consumed and accepted by malnourished children. A multi-week dosage of the local therapeutic food, meeting all WHO & UNICEF requirements, would fully recover from children suffering with SAM.

Reiterating the need for action to address malnutrition, Dr Tandon said, “We appeal for a commitment from policymakers to recognise SAM as a medical emergency today with an alarming about 80 lakh children in India suffering from it. Effective interventions are the need of the hour to treat this condition. Taking cue from nations that have made progress, exploring development of indigenous therapeutic food that is suitable, acceptable, cost-effective and sustainable is a viable treatment solution.”

We are highly hopeful and appreciative of the Prime Minister’s Make In India initiative and request him to consider incorporating the local therapeutic food as a Make In India product that can be available to millions of children dying of malnutrition,” added Dr Tandon

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First published on: 23-07-2015 at 17:25 IST