POSHAN ABHIYAAN: A PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT

By Dr MunjparaMahendrabhai

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD)is celebrating 4th‘POSHAN Maah’ throughout the month of September 2021 under the essential POSHAN Abhiyan also known as National Nutrition Mission. In September 2018, 1stPoshanMaah was celebrated across the country with a special focus on Social Behavioural Change and Communication. Since then, every year the month of September is celebrated as ‘POSHAN Maah’to address the malnutritional challenges and also to create awareness about the importance of nutrition among the masses especially children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

Malnutrition has been one of the leading causes of death and diseases among women and children around the globe. It adversely affects cognitive development and learning capacities, thereby resulting in decreased productivity. The Government of India, from time to time, has launched many schemes to address theproblems of the high rate of malnutrition in the country. Some of these schemes are Integrated Child Development Scheme launched in 1975, National Nutrition Policy launched in 1993, Mid Day Meal Scheme launched in 1995and  National Health Mission launched in 2013 etc.

Adding to this fight and in a bid to tackle malnutrition, the hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched POSHAN Abhiyaan on March 8, 2018, from Rajasthan. The POSHAN Abhiyaanis Government’s multi-ministerial convergence mission with the vision to ensure the attainment of malnutrition-free India by 2022. POSHAN Abhiyan focuses on ensuring the nutrition of children, women, and pregnant mothers in impoverished areas. The program also aims to reduce stunting in children from 38.4 percent to 25 percent by 2022.

Malnutrition is a complex and a multi dimensional issue that involvesmany causes, of which most are interrelated. Any solution to solve the issue of malnutrition in the country should ideally involve all relevant sectors. The Ministry of WCD being the nodal ministry, has attempted to make POSHAN Abhiyaan a people’s movement that incorporates inclusive participation from various government bodies, local bodies of states or UTs, social organizations, private sector, and the public at large.  Various partner ministries and departments will help with activities related to nutrition awareness across States and union territories up to the grass root levels. These Departments include Anganwadi workers, health and family welfare department through ASHA, ANM, primary health centers, community health centers, schools, and Panchayati Raj departments through panchayats, and Rural Development through Self-help Groups.The indigenous alternative medicine system or AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) is also a key part of the POSHANAbhiyaan, and research would be conducted along with the Ministry of AYUSH to find solutions for different indicators of malnutrition.

The extraordinary situation of ongoing COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all the lives around the globe. COVID19 might have impacted not only the way forward but also the progress made by the POSHAN Abhiyaanin the last 3 years. The worst affected are always the poor who generally spend majority of their income on food. The Government along with many civil society organizations has made efforts to continue their fight against the problem of malnutrition even under the constrained conditions. The Government started home distribution of ration and food grain after the complete lockdown through the Public Distribution System to bridge dietary gap to prevent a surge in malnutrition among women and children, thereby mitigating the impact of the COVID19 Pandemic.

The ‘POSHAN Maah’ organized under the aegis of the ministry of WCD holds a unique value in creating awareness about Malnutrition, its various causes, and addressing it in a stage-wise manner. The Government chooses a unique theme each year to celebrate the ‘PoshanMaah’. This year, as India celebrates the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, to ensure speedy & intensive outreach, the entire month has been subdivided into weekly themes for a focused and assimilated approach towards improving Holistic Nutrition.

During the entire month of September, various activities related to nutrition awareness are being carried out at variouslevels across the country. The implementing departments and agencies like women and child development department through Anganwadi workers and health and family welfare department through ASHA, ANM, will carry out the activities and spread the message of holistic nutrition throughout the month to ensure a healthier future for women and children.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has planned a series of activities throughout the month with four weekly themes in tandem with States/UTs. The first theme is Plantation Activity as “PoshanVatika” which has been observed from September 1-7.Plantation activities focused on planting of saplings of nutritious fruit trees, local vegetables and medicinal plants and herbs. The second theme is Yoga and AYUSH for nutrition at various workplaces for the employees of Government and corporate bodies, is being observed from September 8 to 15. The third theme has been decided as Distribution of ‘Regional Nutrition Kit’ to Anganwadi beneficiaries of High Burdened Districts which will be observed from 16-23 September. Lastly, the fourth theme is ‘Identification of SAM (Severely Acute Malnourished) children and distribution of nutritious food’ will be observed from 24-30 September.

The Government under the leadership of hon'ble Prime MinisterShri Narendra Modi is making all out efforts to achieve nutritional outcomes for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers. This is not the end of the road and more efforts are being taken by the Government towards improving Holistic Nutrition. Efforts are being made for the improvement of Anganwadi system which is the backbone of India’s nutrition target effort. The schemes like Ayushman Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) aims to improve Primary health infrastructure across the country to achieve the goal of universal health coverage. The Government is also focusing on improving child feeding practices in the country at the critical ages when solid foods are introduced to the diet.

Conclusion

It is important to understand that Health and nutrition are important social infrastructure for human development that is further responsible for the development of countries around the globe. Governance can be considered ‘good’ only when it banishes hunger and starvation. The poor, that constitute a majority of the population, must also be valued and their nutritional needs must be taken care of. The Government is motivated to follow the steps of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi who is himself a strong proponent of antyodaya and is taking various measures to eliminate the problem of malnutrition among the poor. Road ahead is not easy, but the willpower of the Government is strong enough to defeat the evil of malnutrition and bring forth an era of health and happiness for the entire population.

(Author Dr MunjparaMahendrabhai, Hon’ble Minister of State for Women & Child Development And Ayush, Govt. Of India)