First week of September is observed in India as the National Nutrition Week. During the week, Government and other civic agencies conduct a number of programs, events, campaigns and initiatives to highlight the the importance and necessity of good nutrition for human growth. A well-balanced diet that includes various essential nutrients plays a significant role in the growth and development of our mind and body, and it is responsibility of everyone to be mindful of this so theme. The theme for National Nutrition Week 2020 is ‘Eat Right, Bite by Bite’.
To mark this occasion, Rise Against Hunger India launched a nutrition project for pregnant mothers in a migrant and working community in Bangalore. In India, and in fact in many other countries in the world, despite economic prosperity, there has not been significant dent in checking the trend of high rate malnutrition among children. As per the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (2016-18) the rates of stunting (low height for age) and wasting (low weight for age) among under-5 children are 35 per cent and 17 per cent respectively, and though the rates have declined in the past 20 years, in recent past the rate of decline is very nominal.
Nutritionists and health experts suggests two critical windows of interventions where this trend can be reversed. One very important window of opportunity is the first 1,000 days (between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday) and the second window of opportunity is the adolescent period, from age 10 to 19. Investing in mother’s nutrition, combined with other healthcare interventions during pregnancy can make a huge difference. With this understanding, Rise Against Hunger India together with its field partners Mitra Sanketa, identified an area with majority migrant and daily wage earners to provide micronutrient-rich meals and food supplements to 300 pregnant mothers. Most of the workers from this community, including women who were working as housemaids and daily laborers, have lost their jobs during lockdown. In the course of general discussions with the community members, it was obvious that most households had felt the effect of this in their food intake (we are in the process of conducting a household survey to assess this). Though every member in the household is affected, low food and nutrition intake among pregnant mothers will certainly impact the nutrition status of the newborn children.
Under the project, mothers are provided with Rise Against Hunger India meals that come with a mix of proteins, cereals, vegetables, and essential vitamins, micronutrients and minerals ((Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Pantothenic Acid and Folic Acid). The field teams are working with local Anganwadi and Asha workers to identify pregnant mothers, register them at the local health center, prepare & maintain their cards. These cards will be regularly maintained and progress measured to track improvement and take note of early warning signals, if any. For mothers requiring additional supplements, other supplemental assistance may also be provided. We intend to continue with this cohort for 1000 days (it is quite possible that some of these mothers may move to other locations or to their native villages, so we will work with those who continue in the area).
We are thankful to the community workers for their support to the mothers at a very critical time. Our team is going to track this project very meticulously to learn more so that similar projects can be replicated in other locations.==