A broad spectrum prescription has been devised to raise the level of nutrition in one of the most backward states—Jharkhand in India, where 46.3% of the children are underweight. It indicates chronic and acute malnutrition. About 67.4% of the women aged between 15 and 49 are anaemic.
High malnutrition rate is a consequence of multiple factors such as poverty, food insecurity, inadequate diets, gender inequality, low education, poor health, and sub-optimal health care giving practices.
Apart from agriculture, other interventions to reduce malnutrition of small children are necessary for effective and long-term sustainable results. Appropriate hygiene is just as critical as improved access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities.
It is evident that a multi-sectoral integration in the areas of agriculture, WASH and nutrition is essential.
PRAVAH, an NGO based in Deoghar of Jharkhand state is working with 9,000 households in 120 villages in the Sonaraithari block of Deoghar district, Bengabad block of Giridih district and Ghatshila block of East Singhbhum district.
The impact of the project has been on about 6000 women in the reproductive age group of 15-49. They received improved care-giving practices with regards to nutrition, dietary diversity, hygiene and health. Besides, 6,000 children in the age group, between 6 months and 5 years have received regular meals by the end of the project which meets requirements of a minimum acceptable diet.
About 500 village level extension workers of various authorities were trained to deliver appropriate practice with regards to nutrition, health, agriculture and WASH in the 100 villages. 150 government official, local representatives and parliamentarians will be sensitized on the importance of the muti-sectoral approach, better interlinking of agriculture, nutrition and WASH in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. They in turn promote multi-sectoral approaches in various forums.
What is required is an improvement in government extension service towards better integration of agriculture, nutrition and WASH for achieving sustainable nutritional outcomes. Therefore, training is required of Anaganwari workers, ASHAs and Community Resource Persons periodically so that they implement appropriate methods on linking agriculture with nutrition, natural resource management and WASH. Together, it would enhance improved nutrition and health status.
Organized nutrition camps in collaboration with State Government’s Women and Child Development and Health departments offer effective services on identification, care giving and treatment of malnourished children.
Role of Community
PRAVAH started empowering village level committees for monitoring and implementation of participatory micro planning. This leads to improvement in quality, access and integration of government services/entitlements on agriculture, food, nutrition, WASH and rural livelihoods.
Role of Kitchen Gardens
The families in the villages have kitchen gardens to supply most of the non-staple foods that they need every day of the year, including roots and tubers, vegetables and fruits, legumes, herbs and spices, animals and fish. The roots and tubers are rich in energy and legumes are important sources of protein, fat, iron and vitamins.
The green leafy vegetables and yellow- or orange-coloured fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals, particularly foliate, and vitamins A, E and C. The vegetables and fruits are a vital component of a healthy diet and should be eaten as part of every meal.
Chicken and fish are good sources of protein, fat and micronutrients, particularly iron and zinc. They are especially important in small children’s diets to ensure normal growth and cognitive development.