Feeding the Child of Tomorrow

India has the second largest population in the world. Being a country with such high numbers, there are inevitably going to be issues and problems which some part of the populace will face. Unfortunately in India, it is the children that are suffering. As per a study conducted by Assocham and EY, the country has about 50% of the world's undernourished children.

Those numbers become even more disheartening in states like Rajasthan where 4 out of 10 children are underweight. According to the 4th National Family Health Survey, chronic malnutrition in the state has increased from 39.1% to 43.7% and 7.3% children suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The situation is alarming as the consequences of malnutrition often become visible when it is too late.

integrated nutrition project A young mother and her daughter who have benefitted from the project

To address the magnitude of malnutrition in the state, the Integrated Nutrition Project was launched in 2015 in Bikaner and Udaipur covering 70 villages. The project aims to improve the nutritional status of children through an integrated approach of Health, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Nutrition.

As part of the project, many local women have been integrated as Community Health Workers to reach out to children and families and provide them with the best possible facilities to improve their health and nutrition. One of the many women who are now part of the project is Munita.

Munita (and her husband) with the gear she uses for home visits

Munita has been a Community Nutrition Worker since the beginning of the project. Over the course of two years, she has visited more than 250 households and supported 221 children along with 32 pregnant women.

"Initially, there was a bit of resistance from my family to join the project but the staff were very good in explaining the benefits of it not just for me but for our community. My husband, in particular has been very supportive of me working", she says.

"It's a challenge to handle so many houses but one I like as it gives me confidence in my duties and responsibilities", she adds.

community health worker Munita using a MUAC band to screen the nutritional status of a child

Before joining the project as a Community Health Worker, Munita admits that her own children were underweight and malnourished. After she signed up, she received training and learnt about health and nutrition. There was a time in the past when her nephew was malnourished. Through continuous counselling and providing him with micro-nutrients, he was able to recover.

Like her nephew, she has helped numerous other children and families in accessing proper health care facilities for their children. "I encourage mothers to breast feed their children for the first six months. Small tips like this go a long way in a child being healthy and fit. And most families that I have visited have started using this knowledge to their benefits. Young mothers are taking better care of their children and themselves."

improve the nutritional status of children - plan india Munita measuring the height of the young girl

"Being a mother myself, it is very reassuring to see that the project is making such a difference in my community. All our hard work and effort has not been in vain", says a proud Munita.

- Written and Captured by Brian Boye

Published in Exposure