Malnutrition is a critical issue affecting children in India. Reducing malnutrition in children is crucial to the future development of the country.
Avantha Foundation addresses malnutrition in children during the first 1000 days, covering ante and post natal periods – the crucial time when a child’s physical, emotional and cognitive development takes shape. The foundation has been associated with this issue since its inception and has expanded its work to cover four Indian states and some of the most marginalized communities.
The HUNGaMA survey supported by the Foundation in 2011 indicated the level of malnutrition amongst children under five years in India’s 100 most challenged districts. The survey covered over 100,000 children and 75,000 mothers. The findings show that more than half the children surveyed were malnourished and more than 90% mothers were not aware of malnutrition. The survey report [view] was released by Honourable Prime Minister of India in early 2012.
Based on the gaps identified in the HUNGaMA survey, Avantha Foundation initiated this 3-year project in 2012 working with indigenous and tribal communities in remote villages of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The project aimed at establishing evidence-based models to address child malnutrition during the first 1000 days.
The project works in close collaboration with government departments of Health, Women & Child Development and field functionaries like Accredited Social Health Activists and Aanganwadi Workers under India’s flagship development programs such as National Rural Health Mission and Integrated Child Development Services.
The project has reached more than 20,000 children under two years of age through 770 Aanganwadis spread over the tribal areas of Kundura in Odisha, Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh and Chhoti Sarwan in Rajasthan.
The Foundation adopted an advocacy-led and evidence-driven approach to HUNGaMA Next that implemented large scale field interventions with indigenous and tribal communities in three Indian states. This project leveraged evidence of positive impact garnered during its pilot phase for policy deliberations in the broader area of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
Key components of the project include:
Empowering Mothers and Families:
Intensive home-based counselling of mothers and family members using Shishu Vikas Chart [view], a growth monitoring toolkit kept in every home to track the growth of children.
Knowledge sessions with elected representatives to increase awareness on child nutrition. Working with key policy makers as catalysts to drive and enact policies for mitigating child malnutrition.
Mobilizing local communities to monitor health and nutritional status of children in villages. Engaging members of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Use of Technology:
A mobile based application for monitoring child nutrition indicators and analysis of real time data to inform project implementation.
Training of Aanganwadi Workers, Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives on care and growth monitoring of children during the first 1000 days. Accompanied home visits to support and mentor frontline workers of government flagship programs.
Avantha Foundation launched project Saksham in 2015 in collaboration with Rajmata Jijau Mother-Child Health & Nutrition Mission of Government of Maharashtra. The Foundation is working closely with more than 1000 Aanganwadis to improve child nutrition in remote villages of five tribal blocks – Chikhaldara and Dharani in Amravati and Peth, Surgana and Trimbakeshwar (Harsul) in Nashik.
The Foundation is leveraging its Nutrition Fellowship for the next two years to support the Saksham project. A rapid appraisal focusing on knowledge and practices of mothers and families provided critical information for project design. Successful components from HUNGaMA Next such as Shishu Vikas Chart, mother’s education and counselling, low-cost high-nutrition local recipes and capacity strengthening of frontline workers are replicated and scaled. Rajmata Jijau Mother-Child Health & Nutrition Mission is providing technical guidance and training, while Zilla Parishads are ensuring cooperation and support of frontline workers, making it a successful and scaled tripartite model.