Good news from Banswara for malnourished children

Sustained campaign helps 43% reach the ‘normal’ mark

Updated - November 30, 2021 01:38 am IST

Published - November 30, 2021 01:37 am IST - JAIPUR

  Indigenous approach:  Women were trained to cook nutritious meals using local produce.

Indigenous approach: Women were trained to cook nutritious meals using local produce.

Following the adoption of a bottom-up approach to strengthen child protection systems, 43% of malnourished children in one of the 11 blocks in tribal-dominated Banswara district in southern Rajasthan have hit the normal mark. The initiative has sought to protect the most vulnerable ones among the undernourished children and safeguarded them against a possible third wave of the pandemic.

The drive for improving health status of children and adolescents in 750 villages of Banswara district was taken up through a “Poshan Swaraj Abhiyan”, followed by the observance of a child rights week in November's third week. The campaign has promoted indigenous food practices and trained women in cooking nutritious meals for their children by using the abundant and diverse edible materials available in the region.

The tribal communities in southern Rajasthan have been utilising their indigenous practices of food and agricultural management to tide over the difficult periods of drought and scarcity. They dealt with the lockdown enforced last year amid the pandemic by following their customs.

Banswara-based Vaagdhara, which works on tribal livelihood issues, took up the drive in collaboration with the district administration and the Integrated Child Development Services. About 67,000 children residing in five blocks of the district were screened at the start of the campaign and the identified ones among them provided with nutritious food cooked using the local edible items at the special nutrition and counselling camps.

Significant reduction

The results for Kushalgarh block, released by the district administration, have revealed a significant reduction in the percentage of malnourished children aged up to six years. Of the 16,000 children in the block, 4,045 were identified as malnourished, who were covered in the campaign. Among them, 41.43% were identified as severely malnourished children.

After 15 days of the drive, the nutritional status of children was found as improved and more than 33% of them came up into the normal category. When further screened earlier this month, an increment of 10 percentage points was observed among the normal children and a reduction of 4.7 percentage points seen among moderately acute malnourished and 5.6 percentage points among severely acute malnourished children.

Vaagdhara secretary Jayesh Joshi told The Hindu that the results of Kushalgarh block had shown that the ‘swaraj’ philosophy, based on the food management with indigenous resources, would succeed in maintaining an appropriate health status for both children and adults. Similar results were expected from Ghatol, Anandpuri, Sajjangarh and Gangadtalai blocks, he said.

Tracking through app

The identified children were nourished everyday with indigenous food groups, such as small millets, vegetables, sprouted grains, groundnuts, ragi and til laddoos and sama kheer, and their mothers were asked to feed them with similar nutritious meals after the campaign ended. Anganwadi workers tracked the malnourished children through a mobile app after their division into three categories.

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