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Women self-help groups keep Chhattisgarh babies healthy

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Kondagaon/Dhamtari (Chhattisgarh): Born in a Gond tribal family in Kondagaon district in Chhattisgarh, two-year old Priyanka weighed only 5 kg and was suffering from acute malnutrition when she was taken to a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) two months ago.

Photo credit: hindustantimes.com
Photo credit: hindustantimes.com

Priyanka’s parents are daily wagers in Shampur, a small settlement in the newly carved-out Kondagaon district that is located some 220 km south of state capital Raipur. Such was the condition of the toddler that she was kept under constant watch at the NRC for 15 days.

“She was stunted, weak and underweight so we admitted her to the NRC, where she was provided nutritious food seven to eight times every day. She has, however, come out of the acute malnutrition category, but is still malnourished,” Anganwadi worker Dushan Pandey told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Pandey said that Priyanka’s parents had not paid attention to the child’s health. Now, she is being taken care of at an Anganwadi centre and slowly progressing towards normalcy.

“We now feed her three to five times daily with nutritious food – daal-rice and green vegetables – at the Shampur Anganwadi centre under the Nava Jatan scheme,” Pandey added.

Chhattisgarh’s 26 million population has an over 30 percent tribals and 30.55 percent of its children are malnourished. The state has, however, shown substantial improvement in reducing the number of malnourished children through various steps, including the Nawa Jatan Scheme.

Women’s Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) are formed under the state government’s Nava Jatan programme to address malnourished children.

Dhamtari district collector Bhim Singh said that the percentage of malnourished children has reduced significantly. Through Wajan Tyohar (weight festival) we determine whether the child is malnourished by recording his/her weight.

“In 2012, the percentage of malnourished children in Dhamtari was 43.89 percent, which was reduced to 39.84 percent in 2013 and further reduced to 33.71 percent in 2014. Till June 8, 2015, only 24.59 percent children (including tribal children) were under-nourished in the district,” he said.

“The WSHGs adopt malnourished children in their area and provide them food with the help of Anganwadi centres,” Bhim Singh said.

According to Wajan Tyohar data in Kondagaon district, the level of malnourished children was very high at 51.95 percent in 2012 and reduced to 44.62 percent in 2013. In 2014 malnutrition was 41.84 percent and was marginally reduced to 41.15 till June 8, 2015.

Women and Child Development Department secretary Dinesh Srivastava said: “The children who fall under the category of moderately or severely under-weight are treated under the Nawa Jatan Scheme.”

UNICEF provides technical inputs to the design of the scheme and the capacity building plan.

There had been several challenges in addressing under-nutrition among tribal children including household poverty, gender and social norms, lack of tribal leadership, lack of awareness and family planning.

The anganwadi supervisor of Shampur sector, Belarani Biswas, said: “Most of the tribal people here are in the habit of drinking a lot. In tribal families, women also drink a lot of liquor due to which they are not able pay proper attention to the proper upbringing of their wards, leading to improper eating habits in children.”

According to the 2009 estimates of the erstwhile Planning Commission, India’s 104 million tribals continue to remain among the country’s poorest social groups. Children of tribals remain the most nutritionally deprived.

The child development project officer (CDPO) of Kondagaon district, Amit Singh, said that malnourished girls grow into weak mothers and give birth to underweight babies.

“The WSHGs, along with Suposhan Mitras, reach out to every individual in their respective area and ensure proper feeding to the kids. They also counsel their parents about paying more attention towards improving the eating habits of their children,” Amit Singh said.

(Ashish Mishra, IANS)

Next Story

Mia Farrow Promoting IRC’s Approach to Treating Severe and Moderate Acute Malnutrition

"Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn't necessary, in a world of abundance ... you have frustration," she said

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Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE - Three-year-old Fatime Mahamat, suffering from severe malnutrition, cries as she rests in a nutritional health clinic run with the support of UNICEF, in Mao, Chad, Nov. 4, 2012. VOA

Groups of women had traveled for days to find care for their starving children in Chad, blankly staring in exhaustion and with little hope. But other women smiled, relieved to see their children “fattened” by a new and simplified initiative for hunger. Mia Farrow.

In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy for the International Rescue Committee.

“Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn’t necessary, in a world of abundance … you have frustration,” she said. “When I saw this simple solution … I said yes, there is an answer.”

She is promoting the IRC’s approach to treating severe and moderate acute malnutrition, one that contrasts with the widespread method using two different products administered by two different agencies.

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE – Human rights activist Mia Farrow talks with staff from the International Rescue Committee while visiting an internally displaced persons camp in Juba, South Sudan, April 2, 2019. VOA

UNICEF provides a fortified peanut butter treatment to children with severe acute malnutrition, while the World Food Program, another United Nations agency, provides a blended flours treatment to children with moderate acute malnutrition. A child with moderate acute malnutrition could arrive at a facility that only serves severe cases and not receive treatment.

Efficiency, cost

In Chad, about 350,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. That number could grow as the landlocked Sahel nation faces a growing extremist threat in its Lake Chad region and refugees continue to arrive from neighboring countries. Rapid desertification exacerbates the hunger and poverty.

Chad ranks 186th of 189 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index and has one of the world’s highest levels of hunger, according to the World Food Program. More than 66% of the population of 15.5 million lives in severe poverty.

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The IRC hopes to make treating malnutrition more efficient and less costly. CEO David Miliband has said the new approach could save millions of lives over the next decade since only 20% of some 50 million acutely malnourished children worldwide have access to treatment.

The IRC hopes its pilot programs in Chad and Mali can help inform World Health Organization guidelines on treating malnutrition and allow health workers to deliver the treatments within communities and not just at clinics.

“We don’t have to watch children die,” Farrow said.

‘Promising’ approach

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy. Pixabay

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the agency “fully supports testing and building the evidence for simplified approaches such as the one being put forward by IRC. The approach shows promise, and we’re enthusiastic about it as one of the strategies that may help improve treatment of acute malnutrition.”

Malnutrition is a major cause of maternal and child illness and death in Chad, he said. He acknowledged that in remote settings some women and children may walk for hours or days to a clinic only to find treatment for one type of malnutrition available — and could be turned away if they don’t fit the criteria.

“Simplified protocols could provide a promising solution to these issues,” he said. For them to be effective, “we need to ensure that these services are also available in communities, not just in health clinics.”

He noted that some evidence gaps remain on the effectiveness of the approach but said U.N. agencies are working with the IRC to generate needed data.

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The IRC pilot in Chad is being carried out in partnership with Chad’s health ministry, WFP and UNICEF. Nearly 2,000 malnourished children already have been admitted. (VOA)