Combating the Menace of Malnutrition

Dr. Banarsi Lal

Every year September month is celebrated as the National Nutrition Month (Rashtriya Poshan Maah) across the country. Government of India launched POSHAN abhiyan in March, 2018 for holistic nourishment. It was decided to celebrate September month as Rashtriya Poshan Maah during the 2nd meeting of National Council of India’s Nutrition Challenge on 24th of July 2018 under the Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog. The objective of this mission is to reduce the stunting, undernutrition, low birth weight and anemia among the children. In 2018 more than 45 crore people across the nation enthuastically participated in this campaign with a message ‘Har Ghar Poshan Tyohar’. In 2019 also massive response of campaign was received across the nation and people showed keen interest to eradicate the malnutrition. In 2020 third Rashtriya Poshan Maah was being celebrated across the nation and different types of activities such as awareness-cum-training programmes, wall writings, essay writing, web conferences, video conferences etc. were organized. Due to COVID-19 it was repositioned from conventional celebration to digital mode. Extensive use of mass media such as print media, social media, various virtual meetings etc. were adopted to educate the people on the malnutrition and balanced diet. Two activities such as identification of children with severe acute malnutrition and plantation drive for kitchen gardening were focused in the POSHAN Abhiyan 2020. These activities were executed throughout the month by the different organisations. One of the major objectives of Poshan Maah 2020 was to identify the malnourished children so that their treatment can be done. The theme of National Nutrition Month 2022 was “Mahila aur Swasthya” (Woman and Health) and “Bacha aur Shiksha” (Child and Education).The focal point of Poshan Maah 2023 is to cultivate widespread awareness concerning critical human stages: pregnancy, infancy, childhood and adolescence. The aim is to foster nutritional understanding across India through a theme centred on “Suposhit Bharat, Sakshar Bharat, Sashakt Bharat” (Nutrition rich India, Educated India, Empowered India.
Fruits and vegetables are the rich source of nutrients and their regular consumption can help us to keep healthy and fit. Intake of turmeric, ginger, citrus etc. help us to boost the immunity in our body. In September, we generally initiate the process for winter vegetables and plantation derive for the kitchen gardening is encouraged during the month. Different vegetables crops such as cabagge, cauliflower, radish, knolkhol, turnip etc. can be sown in this month. These vegetables can be grown organically by using the local resources of the farmers. Organic vegetables are chemical free and are good for our health. Kitchen gardens can be made in the Angadwadi Centres, schools, government offices and even in urban areas. In urban areas roof top vegetables gardening can be promoted without much efforts. Kitchen gardening can play a crucial role to mitigate the problem of quality vegetables. For this purpose Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) can play a crucial role in imparting the knowledge on kitchen gardening. Essay competitions on malnutrion, anemia, sanitation, kitchen gardening etc. can also be organized among the school children by the various organizations to promote the balanced diet and nutrition for the people. Nutrition related problems in the rural areas need to be identified and solutions need to be provided to the people. For this purpose also Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be made effectively to disseminate the message on nutrition during the Poshan Maah. Webinars/Seminars can also be organized on the nutrition and expert advice needs to be communicated to the others. The farmers and women farmers can also be involved in the webinars. Success stories on nutrition need to be highlighted during the webinars. Media can play a significant role in the disseminating the message of balanced nutrition among the masses. Discussion and talk show can also be organized at various local TV and radio channels by involving the experts and local people. The services of doctors, scientists, local women farmers etc. can be utilized effectively to disseminate the message of Poshan Abhiyan. Undernutrition is the major cause of mortality and morbidity among the children under the age of five years. Although India has made remarkable progress in economic, social and political fields after independence but still there is need of strenuous efforts to reduce malnutrition in the country. There is dire need to focus on nutrition as nutrition is the basic facet of human life. A well-nourished society is helpful for the long-term economic development. There are number of benefits of investing on proper nutrition as proper nutrition helps to control diseases, reduces infant and maternal mortality, empowers women, improves worker productivity and increases the learning capacity of the students. Government of India is endevouring for improving the status of nutrition in India on priority basis. After independence, there was a great challenge to be self-sufficient in food production. But after Green Revolution this challenge was largely mitigated.
Undernutrition occurs due to multiple factors. It is a burden that hampers us to achieve our desired goals. In order to become a global power India needs to eradicate the malnutrition so that our present and future generations can be healthy and more intellectual. Different schemes will be successful only when the people of the country are healthy and fit. There is need of different interventions required for reduction of malnutrition across the nation. Poshan Abhiyan will provide the required convergence platform and thus can augment a synergized approach to eradicate the menace of malnutrition. Convergence at centre is being achieved through formation of the National Council for Nutrition and the Executive Committee for Poshan Abhiyaan. The Convergence Action Plan at State/UT, district and block level defines the implementation and monitoring mechanisms for the Abhiyaan. This Abhiyaan empowers the frontline functionaries i.e. Anganwadi workers and Supervisors by providing them with smart phones.The problem of malnutrition is inter-generational and is dependent on multiple factors which include optimal Infant & Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices, deworming, dietary diversification, immunization, Institutional delivery, early childhood development, food fortification, safe drinking water and proper sanitation etc. There is a need to make strenuous efforts to tackle the problem of stunting, under-weight and wasting, especially in children. There is need to bring change in the behaviour of the people and a multi-pronged strategy needs to be adopted to create mass scale awareness on nutrition. For this purpose awareness camps, involvement of mass media, outdoor campaigns, mobilization of all frontline functionaries, Self Help Groups (SHGs), NGOs etc. need to be adopted. The National Poshan Abhiyaan is going to bring spectacular success to tackle malnutrition across the nation. Success in the nutrition mission requires participation from different communities and more and more awareness on nutrition should be created among the people. We all need to join our hands together to eradicate the menace of malnutrition from our society. A good health care system that provides immunization, periodic deworming, oral rehydration, early diagnosis and proper treatment of common illnesses etc. can prevent malnutrition in the society.
(The writer is: Sr. Scientist & Head of KVK, Reasi SKUAST-J).

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