In light of malnutrition being a glaring issue in Karnataka and across country, the State Government is making all possible measures to improve nutritional status of people including expecting mothers and children.
Recently L K Atheeq, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of Karnataka highlighted sorry state of malnutrition in some districts of Karnataka. Referring the figure cited by the Department of Women and Children, he said that there is an overall malnutrition rate of up to 41.2% in rural India and 31% in urban areas.
Terming malnutrition as a social problem, he brought the fact to that fore that if a pregnant woman is anaemic, the baby is also born anaemic. As per the data, Koppal district tops the list with a malnutrition rate of 29.98% followed by Bidar, Raichur and Gadag with 27.81%, 27.09% and 25.65%, respectively.
“The first thousand days of a baby’s development – which translates to three years, including nine months of pregnancy – are crucial to a child’s development and if there is malnutrition at this early stage, it is irreversible in later years,” he said.
Severe malnutrition, poor health, lack of cleanliness and awareness, are some of the glaring issues aggravating the State’s record on this front.
Multi-sectoral nutrition project
However, the State Government is leaving no stone unturned to improve situation and recent initiatives speak volume about its intent to take things head-on.
In an endevour to address above issues, the Government of Karnataka with support from World Bank and Japan Social Development Fund, initiated Karnataka Multi-sectoral Nutrition Project.
Objective of the pilot project is to reduce malnutrition among children, adolescents and pregnant women.
To end the vicious cycle of malnutrition, the Government has appointed Village Nutritional Volunteers (VNVs) in each village. These volunteers personally visit each home and educate mothers on care and nutrition of newborns.
Village Nutritional Volunteers (VNVs)
They also make mothers aware about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for starting six month and complementary foods after six month. In addition, these volunteers also disseminate information about weight gain during pregnancy, body mass index among adolescents and consumption of fruits and vegetables to keep malnutrition at bay.
The programme aims to create awareness among communities about proper nutrition and bring about behavioral change in dietary habits among people.
The project also educate people about importance of sanitation and clean drinking water and its safe storage.
As a result, anemia among communities has decreased and there is a substantial improvement in nutritional and health status of families.
The gram panchayat members are also actively involved in the project. VNVs maintain a nutritional card for each beneficiary. For children, details about height, weight and diaria episodes are recorded and analyzed later to check the progress about nutritional status of the families. These details are entered into card every month.
Elaborating more about the project, Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary for Planning, Programme Monitoring & Statistics Department, Government of Karnataka, said, “We all know that children are future of the country. If only children are healthy, future of the country is going to be healthy. However it is very disappointing to note that 36 per cent of our children in the age group of 0 to 3 years are stunted. This is mainly due to poor nutritional status of these children who are living below poverty line.”
“In Karnataka we have a ray of hope. With the pilot project which was done under the World Bank named as Karnataka Multi-sectoral Nutrition Project wherein two very very backward talukas were selected and a very special multi-sectoral inter-generational cycle approach was adopted. Local volunteers among women of same village were selected to reach out to the families concerned to understand the importance of not only nutrition, but sanitation and other important aspect of health and hygiene which are so important to ensure that their nutritional standards improve.”
Shedding more light about the objective of the project, T M Vijay Bhaskar, Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, said: “Malnutrition is very serious problem in India and State of Karnataka. The State Government has implemented many initiatives to raise the nutritional level of children and general population. Multi-sectoral nutrition project has showed encouraging results. We encourage philanthropists, NGOs, international organisations to join our endevour to counter malnutrition in the State.