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Bridging the Malnutrition Gap – The Bemetara Way

Why is it in the news?

  • Counselling people on eating and feeding practices, coupled with monitoring, can be a game-changer in addressing malnutrition.
  • Though the government made efforts to ensure food security through the initiatives such as mid-day meals in schools, monthly rations through the Public Distribution System, and nutrition programs like the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyaan, challenges persist due to lack of knowledge and myths around food.

Lessons from Bemetara

  • Bemetara in Chhattisgarh faces malnutrition despite affluence and access to food.
  • Lack of knowledge about feeding practices is the issue.
  • Nutrition counselling and monitoring chosen as the solution.

Potth Laika Abhiyaan- Healthy Child Mission

  • Implemented in 72 affected Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) in Bemetara.
  • Provides nutrition counselling with UNICEF’s support.
  • Ground-level staff trained to counsel parents of Severe Acute Malnutritioned (SAM) and Medium Acute Malnutritioned (MAM) children.
  • Focus on “Tiranga Bhojan” (balanced diet) and hygiene.
  • Dispels dietary myths and superstitions.
  • Involves local leaders and door-to-door monitoring.

Suggestions & Way Forward

  • Nutrition counselling is essential but needs uniform implementation and training of field staff.
  • “Jan Andolan” or social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) is part of POSHAN Abhiyaan.
  • Awareness programs, rallies, and activities promote nutrition and health.
  • Model should be replicated on a larger scale.
  • Combining food provision with nutrition counselling and monitoring accelerates malnutrition eradication.
  • India can move closer to achieving a “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat” (Malnutrition-free India) with effective nutrition counselling.

About Malnutrition

  • Refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
  • A chronic problem and long-standing challenge for India’s public administration.

Types of Malnutrition

1) Undernutrition
  • Includes wasting (low weight-for-height).
  • Includes stunting (low height-for-age).
  • Includes underweight (low weight-for-age).
  • Stunted and wasted children are considered underweight, indicating inadequate nutritional intake and post-childbirth care.
2) Micronutrient-related Malnutrition
  • Encompasses micronutrient deficiencies (lack of essential vitamins and minerals).
  • Can also involve excess micronutrient intake.
3) Overweight
  • Encompasses obesity.
  • Includes diet-related noncommunicable diseases (e.g., heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers).

Government Initiatives to Address Malnutrition

Poshan Abhiyan

  • Description: A multi-ministerial convergence mission with the goal of achieving a malnutrition-free India by 2022.
  • Implementing Ministry: Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD).

Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) 2.0 Scheme

  • Description: Includes the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, targeting adolescent girls, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children below three.
  • Implementing Ministry: Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

  • Description: One of the world’s largest programs for early childhood care and development.
  • Beneficiaries: Children aged 0-6 years, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
  • Implementing Ministry: Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme:

  • Description: A school meal program aimed at improving the nutritional status of school-age children.
  • Coverage: Students in Classes 1 to 8 of government schools, government-aided schools, special training centres, including madrasas supported under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.

National Food Security Mission:

  • Description: Launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare to increase the production of targeted crops sustainably through area expansion and productivity enhancement.

(Topic: GS2: Social Issues)

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