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Social myths trigger malnutrition in tribal, rural areas

Jan 21, 2015

Civil society leaders have urged the Indian government for a comprehensive strategy involving people to arrest severe acute malnutrition.

New Delhi: The Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security has urged the Indian government for recognizing severe acute malnutrition as a medical emergency. Government was also urged to scale up detection and management of severe acute malnutrition and allow adapted treatment at community level.

The coalition also asked for improved governance and nutrition surveillance along with preventive action to avert crisis and reduce acute malnutrition. The appeal was made during the launch of ‘Generation Nutrition Campaign’ in New Delhi launched by Action Contre la Faim / Action Against Hunger (ACF)-India and Fight Hunger Foundation to end child deaths from hunger.

Experts representing various nonprofits were of the view that viable partnerships involving donors, NGOs, government and people was crucial for fighting malnutrition at the ground level. Peter Burgess, DG, ECHO’s South Asian Regional Office, called for partnerships between various stakeholders and adherence to international protocol on arresting malnutrition.

Aparna Ganesh of the Tata Trust said that social myths trigger the challenge of malnutrition in rural and tribal areas. “The social myths surround the health practices in both rural and urban areas. The usage of scientific medicines should be promoted among tribal and rural communities,” she said.

Stressing on the need of educating women, Aparna said that educated mothers could be an effective instrument for fighting malnutrition. “Excessive communication campaigns targeting husbands and mothers-in-law could be effective. Malnutrition leaves an intergenerational impact, and requires a holistic approach for limiting malnutrition indicators like stunting and wasting,” she said.

Dr Rajiv Tandon, Deputy Country Director, ACF-India, said that severe Acute Malnutrition is a medical emergency today with an alarming, about 80 lakh children in India suffering from it. “We appeal to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister to take urgent action to address this issue and ensure that these children who are mostly in rural and tribal areas of India survive and thrive. We request the government to ensure adequate budget allocations and convergent action at block level for implementing quality programs equitably,” he said.

Shaifalika Panda, CEO, Bansidhar & Ila Panda Foundation, stated that malnutrition situation in India has reached the crisis level. “Unfortunately, in India, it is still addressed by most organizations on an emergency basis and that is what needs to be changed. Women empowerment can go a long way in arresting malnutrition among kids and spreading awareness about it,” she said.

Shaifalika said that capacity building was extremely important, and urged various stakeholders to come together for addressing this issue.

Dr Anindya Chatterjee from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), urged for partnerships between the like-minded beneficiaries. “Policy research is needed on the existing government schemes such as the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Right to Food Act for using them to address the challenge of malnutrition,” he said.

Sharmila Neogi from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that cross cutting partnerships involving nutrition and gender with the help of corporate sector and academia would be helpful in delivering results on the ground level.

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