Community action, with a focus on women’s well-being, can fight malnutrition -Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta

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published Published on Jan 5, 2021   modified Modified on Jan 5, 2021

-The Indian Express

Anganwadi workers, ASHAs, ANMs and anganwadi supervisors can work together with panchayat members to ensure that all children and mothers are covered with immunisation, antenatal care, maternity benefits and nutrition services

On an MGNREGA worksite in Kolar, Karnataka, a male worker came up to me and said that men ought to be paid more than women. I asked him why. “Adhu yaavaagalu hange,” he replied: That was how it always was. Not so in MGNREGA, I told him.

With equal wages for women and men, and direct payments to workers’ bank accounts, MGNREGA helps to increase women’s incomes. Another major programme which can improve women’s livelihood, their social empowerment and their lives is the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). Increased incomes give women more voice in family decisions, and the ability to care better for their families and themselves.

Data from the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) shows gains in some important areas. In most of the 22 states and Union territories surveyed, infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rates have fallen; and institutional births and child immunisation rates have increased. Access to improved drinking water and sanitation has increased in almost all areas surveyed.

On child malnutrition, the NFHS’s findings are worrying. Beyond behaviour change communication and regular monitoring, direct nutrition interventions are key, especially during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in the early years of a child’s life. Pregnant women, lactating mothers and young children need hot cooked meals with adequate protein, milk, and green leafy vegetables. States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have replaced take-home rations for mothers with daily hot cooked meals.

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The Indian Express, 5 January, 2021,

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