Tackling malnutrition is easy: NGOs

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS):
Tackling malnutrition is not a difficult task and a grassroot level approach that works with communities - particularly tribal and rural areas - and teaching them simple measures will help in addressing the issue, NGOs said here Friday.

"Malnutrition is not rocket science. It can be tackled with simple measures. It is not a question of food intake only, health and sanitation play a vital role. Many in rural, tribal areas still don't wash their children's hands before a meal or cut infants' nails regularly. They should be sensitised about these steps," said Ashish Satav, founder of NGO Mahan Trust.

NGOs working at grassroot levels with villages and tribal communities to eradicate malnutrition shared the best practices on how to combat child malnutrition at an event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) CSR centre for excellence and Glenmark, a pharma firm.

"I have seen how a two-year-old tribal child, who was affected by pneumonia, died as she was not given treatment. Instead, they had put a garlic garland around her neck and were praying to the local deity in Malghat village in Maharashtra. We started home-based childcare in the village and taught mothers and village healthcare workers what is diarrhea, pneumonia and sanitation," Satav said.

We provide protein rich, hot meals to severely malnourished children. Now the severe malnutrition level among the community has dropped from nine percent to three percent," Satav added.

Talking about another tribal community, Korku in Jharkhand, Prakash Michael from Spanda Samaj Sewa Samiti said: "Children in the tribal community eat less than 10 kg cereal and one kg vegetable a month. If we analyse their dietary plan, one would be surprised how the children survive with such low calorie food. Along with anganwadi centres, we also started daycare centres."

According to NGOs working in the grassroot level, anganwadi centres are equipped to meet the dietary requirements of children.

"Ground level workers like the anganwadi and Asha workers of each district are addressing issues of malnutrition to young mothers," said Sila Deb, deputy commissioner (child health), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

According to a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), only one third (33 percent) Indian children receive any service from an anganwadi centre, less than 25 percent receive supplementary foods through Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and only 18 percent have their weights measured at anganwadi centres.


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