As per the report based on the conference held recently in Delhi on "Public Health and Nutrition – Freeing Future Generations from Malnutrition," compiled by Sukarya,and was released by Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, more than 40 percent of the world’s stunted children live in India.
The conference was organized by Sukarya in collaboration with the National Commission on Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), The Ministry of Women & Child Development, The Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Program at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Sukarya USA. The conference was also attended by Maternal & Child Health experts from Bangladesh and Nepal.
Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
As per the Sukarya report, malnutrition estimates are worrying as poor nutrition causes 45 percent of the deaths of children below 5 years and India is home to 40 percent of the world’s stunted, impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Sixty percent of the malnutrition burden in the country is in the few states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
“Government envisages a healthy Ayushman Bharat – a disease-free nation not for any political benefit but for the benefit of people of the country. The government and non-government organizations involved in the fight against malnutrition should use more technology in nutrition and health promotion, and for strengthening the indigenous food habits in the field of maternal and child nutrition,” said Minister Choubey, while releasing the report.
“Sabka Saath - Saab Ki Vikash” can’t be achieved without freeing our future generations from malnutrition and ensuring good health. Keeping in view that women and children are the core target population of the nutrition campaign and health programs, he said. Commenting on the report findings, Minister Choubey said, “We really applaud the way Sukarya is working and setting an example to make our country malnutrition-free, especially amongst women and children. We will support Sukarya in every way we can and appeal to other organizations to come forward and bring the change at large for our countrymen.”
“The report 'Public Health and Nutrition – Freeing Future Generations from Malnutrition,' compiled by NGO Sukarya, which has been working towards improving the health and well-being of underprivileged women and children for more than two decades, aims at safeguarding women and children from malnutrition and anemia in India. The report also recommends the use of modern available technologies to bridge the major gaps and to promote indigenous food habits in maternal and child health and nutrition," said Ms. Meera Satpathy, founder and chairperson of Sukarya speaking on the occasion.
“The report also seeks to be used as a platform to bring together the policymakers, civil society organizations, practitioners and experts from the field of nutrition and so to synergize efforts and strategic local action towards the issue. This could also offer an opportunity to India’s nutrition policy and a broad-based discussion of priorities for nutrition which will be introduced into policy perspectives and programs,” she said.
“It is our utmost duty to make our nation, especially women and children, free from malnutrition and anemia. Poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths amongst children below 5 years of age and the figures are worrisome. I personally feel that it’s the foremost need to work towards making our country malnutrition-free,” Ms. Satpathy added.
‘Sukaya is looking forward to scale up and build partnerships with government and other organizations in the areas of maternal child health, nutrition and adolescent reproductive health to achieve national goals through local initiatives. The consultation helped in developing an understanding on various aspects of nutritional and public health issues and we would like to run some pilot projects in the states like Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar,” she added.
After the conference, Sukarya and the Maternal & Child Health Program at The George Washington University signed a letter of intent to collaborate on future initiatives focused on new and innovative intervention research to improve maternal and child health outcomes while working towards improving the health of women, adolescents and children in India.
Dr. Amita Bhatt Vyas, director of the MCH program, and Drs. Nitasha Chaudhary Nagaraj and Megan Landry, alumni of the MCH program and professors at The George Washington University spoke at the conference on advancing maternal and child health. Vyas spoke on the importance of adolescence as a key time-period to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and the advancement of maternal and child health outcomes. Nagaraj presented on the design and evaluation of public health nutrition programs, while Landry spoke about the cultural barriers to preconception and prenatal nutrition programs. Dr. Vyas also chaired the technology session of the conference highlighting the use of technology for enhancing the efficiency of data collection, management and dissemination in the health care & nutrition sector.
"It was an honor to speak at the Sukarya and Government of India public health and nutrition conference, and I look forward to continued collaboration between our Maternal and Child Health program at the George Washington University (GWU) and Sukarya," said Dr. Vyas. "Our team was incredibly impressed with Sukarya's programs with women and adolescents and it was evident that Sukarya's team has been working diligently for the last 20 years to earn the trust of the community and their programs and services are a lifeline for thousands of families," Dr. Vyas added.
The GWU team spent a whole day visiting Sukarya's programs located in slums outside of Delhi. One specific program they witnessed was, “Education on Wheels." This program was developed in response to the high poverty rate and with no access to schools. Sukarya has turned a school bus into a classroom, which goes into the community daily to provide young children non-formal education so that they can eventually be placed into mainstream schools through Open Basic Examination (OBE) conducted by the government. They also visited the Urban Slum Health Action (USHA) project and the project on Empowerment & Protection of adolescent girls living in the slums where a special curriculum on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and Family Life Education has been quite successful.