Malnutrition is a universal issue holding back development with unacceptable human consequences. Yet the opportunity to end malnutrition has never been greater. The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide global and national impetus to address malnutrition and expedite progress.
The burden of malnutrition across the world remains unacceptably high, and progress unacceptably slow. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill health than any other cause. Children under five years of age face multiple burdens: 150.8 million are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight. Meanwhile 20 million babies are born of low birth weight each year.
No national purpose can be achieved without the public, private and civil society coming together and especially bringing forward voices of the communities and acting upon them with an aim to leave no one behind. With Nutrition India Program (NIP) supported by Reckitt Benckiser (RB) and Implemented by PLAN India with tech partners like Dure Technologies and Research Partners like Vihara Innovation Network. To make NIP more strategic and a good alignment to National Purpose. Five elements on which NIP focused were (1) Breaking the programmatic silos through cross sectoral comprehensive program in hard to reach and most vulnerable populations (2) Strategic Monitoring Learning and Evaluation (MLE) System which helps keep focus on data and ensure project is on Track. (3) Scale up of Nutrition Intervention from output-based intervention modelling to Impact based financing. (4) Focus on healthy diets and promotion of Breast Milk in first 1000 days. (5) Improved targets and renewed focussed commitments.
Nutrition India Program (NIP) reached out to 1.77 lakh mothers in five years for social and behaviour change, which would eventually reduce stunting among children by 40 per cent and wasting by 95 per cent. Nandurbar and Amravati have been chosen as both are aspirational districts, with high tribal population. Both are marked by poor health and WASH indicators.
Our nutrition programme revolves around the continuum of care for mother and child health. The focus is on the first 1,000 days—270 days in the womb and 730 days from birth up to age two—as this period is the critical window of intervention for cognitive development and growth, that can prevent irreversible impacts of stunting.
Reckitt Benckiser will set up breastfeeding pods at public places. The family digital voucher scheme has been introduced for referrals of SAM children to nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRCs) that covers transportation cost and compensates for wage loss. Safe collection, transportation and use of drinking water; hygiene and sanitation are other areas where our energies are focused.
The presence of stakeholders, and possible partners not only gives me encouragement, but also the hope—that there are many like-minded people across all sectors, who are open to partnerships for a larger national purpose. It is heartening to see the media playing its role in a big way in this war against malnutrition.
I hope, many new partnerships would be formed. And that they would go a long way in making India “Malnutrition Free” by using appropriate technologies and Nutrition Impact Bonds to ascertain results, and scaling up the best practices nationwide.
Gaurav Jain is Senior Vice President, South Asia, Reckitt Benckiser- Health.