Community-based approach to address malnutrition by 2022

September 15, 2020 11:11 AM

Rashtriya Poshan Maah 2020 is an opportunity to form greatest mindfulness towards the issue of lack of healthy sustenance and further fortify the development to attain all-encompassing sustenance under POSHAN Abhiyaan.

Much more needs to be done to realize the goal of addressing malnutrition by 2022.Much more needs to be done to realize the goal of addressing malnutrition by 2022.

Dr Sujeet Ranjan

The coronavirus pandemic and containment measures have plunged the economy into a deep contraction. As a result of limited economic activity in the country during the quarter amid lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter of 2020-21 from that in the same quarter last financial year. This is the first instance of an economic contraction for India in at least four decades.

There is a growing fear that the COVID-19 led economic decline and existing poverty will lead to worsening of malnutrition levels in the country. Some groups like migrant workers and their children will be the most affected. India already has 9.3 million children below the age of five who have Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). As per the recent report ‘Community based programme for children below 5 years of age with severe acute malnutrition in India’ released by UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the overall SAM burden in the country. According to the National Family Health Survey, 4 (2015-16), around 35.7% children under 5 years of age are underweight, 38.4% are stunted, and 21% are wasted. More children are becoming malnourished due to the deteriorating quality of their diets, interruptions in nutrition and other essential services, and the socioeconomic shocks created by the pandemic, stated The Lancet report ‘Child malnutrition and COVID-19: the time to act is now’.

To bring nutrition to the center-stage of the national development agenda, the Government of India launched POSHAN Abhiyaan in March 2019. To ensure community mobilization and bolster people’s participation, September 2018 was celebrated as the first Rashtriya Poshan Maah across the country. Since then, every year, during the month of September, activities related to nutrition awareness are carried out by all the states and UTs right from the grassroots level. POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to bring down stunting in children 0-6 years of age from 38.4% to 25% by 2022. It also aims to reduce anaemia among women and adolescent girls in the age group of 15-49 years and reduce low birth weight.

Despite the government’s efforts to fight malnutrition among women and children, malnutrition remains one of India’s biggest challenges and India is off course to meet the global targets for all indicators analyzed with adequate data, revealed the Global Nutrition Report 2020. Malnutrition remains a major threat to the survival, growth, and development of Indian children. To achieve these targets within the stipulated time, the government needs to ramp up its efforts. India’s leadership in many fields is recognized globally. Now is the time to combine the existing technical knowledge and political will to make history for children in India. The ongoing third Rashtriya Poshan Maah 2020 is having two major activities being carried out at grass root level – identification and tracking of children with SAM and plantation drive for promotion of kitchen gardens.

Rashtriya Poshan Maah 2020 is an opportunity to form greatest mindfulness towards the issue of lack of healthy sustenance and further fortify the development to attain all-encompassing sustenance under POSHAN Abhiyaan. Poshan Maah is motivating and appears that we are able make advance in a generally brief span of time, with the correct methodologies and commitment. Within the current emergency of COVID-19, where lack of healthy sustenance can influence the course of the widespread, it gets to be indeed more related to address it with multi-pronged and multisectoral activities. “Community interest and community duty through mediations such as Jan Andolan and Jan Bhagidari have Control to break the ‘Culture of Silence’ for sustenance results. I am exceptionally much cheerful that Poshan Maah will be a ‘People’s Movement” to attain ‘Sahi Poshan – Desh Roshan’ with administration, organizations, and procedures.

Much more needs to be done to realize the goal of addressing malnutrition by 2022. We need to look at multiple approaches, including Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) to tackle malnutrition, including SAM in India. This needs to be guided by an effective policy framework to meet the desired outcomes.

(The columnist is Executive Director, The Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security (CFNS). Views expressed are the author’s own.)

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