'Addressing persistent child undernutrition in Odisha: Feasibility and Prospects'
DHAN Foundation, a national level NGO, organised a conference on 'Addressing persistent child undernutrition in Odisha: Feasibility and Prospects', involving its special institution called 'Sustainable Healthcare
Advancement (SUHAM), here in XIMB campus at Bhubaneswar, on 17th and 18th July, 2014. The conference was supported by IDRC/CRDI, Foreign affairs, Trade and Development Canada, Axis Bank Foundation and Ernst & Young Foundation.
70 participants were selected from among community members of Koraput&Mayurbunj districts, government NGOs, experts, donor agencies, academic and research institutions, toattend this conference. The conference, called for with
the agenda of discussing persistent child undernutrition which prevails in our country and Odisha, is one of the major issues highlighted as per recent surveys like HUNGaMA. Though annual health survey (AHS) shows that there is 10%
decrease in the case, it is still well within the danger zone. Hence the topmost priority of the conference was to explore the set of potential root causes of undernutrition in Odisha, followed by drawing guidelines for civil
society so as to engage them in this pursuit, towards the end of the conference. The conference also aimed at exploring action research opportunities for child nutrition which may add value to address such challenges. The
event was coordinated by Dr.Rajaratnam Abel, Public Health Consultant and Mr.Rajapandian, CEO of SUHAM.
The conference was inaugurated with the welcome speech by Mr.M.P.Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation
followed by the felicitation made by Mr.PaulFernandes, Director, XIMB.The key note address was given by Ms.Meena Gupta IAS, the former health secretary for Govt. of Odisha and she spoke about the status of undernutrition at
global, national and state level. She applauded the efforts of the state government, pointed out the role of civil societies and insisted on community monitoring. This was followed by a special talk by Ms.Arti Ahuja IAS,
Principal Secretary of WCD to Govt. of Odisha. She threw light on the programmes of the state and also shared figures showing significant improvement in recent years. Recent AHS survey shows that Odisha achieved around
10% reduction in child undernutrition. As a part of module one, a presentation on current magnitude and situation of Child Undernutrition in Odisha was given by HUNGaMA report, Naandi Foundation. As a part of the second
module, there were nine presentations on different child nutrition initiatives and their key strategies from organisations like WCD, health department, Unicef, TMST and NGOs including DHAN-SUHAM, MSSRF, CMAI, WASSAN etc.
The discussion brought out the need for community monitoring involving PRIs, SHGs and civil society organisations. The strategy laid out was to target the behavioural change of mothers towards understanding and
reducing undernutrition. Since there is high prevalence of undernutritionin tribal areas, a special strategy needs to be adopted to reach the community. ICDS workers need to spend more time with the community and focus on
personal counselling of mothers. Everybody felt that the convergence between line departments needed to be strengthened to address the issue effectively. It was discussed that the service providers needed to build a
greater capacity to reach the community and counsel them in a better way. Thoughts on bringing back the traditional food practices involving small millets which contain high levels of micro nutrients and fibre content
were appreciated by all participants.
The third module discussed on the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, wherein presentations were given by Dr.Peppin from XIMB and Dr.Abel. The sub group discussion commenced with
suggestions like critical indicators on life cycle to be followed and community monitoring at different levels. The fourth and final module discussed about the way out, followed by organisations sharing their plan of action in
overcoming child undernutrition. Workable suggestions like networking institution to work on child undernutrition, integrating small millets in anganwadi centres, advocating nutrition sensitive approach, nutrition
leadership programmes, action research programmes etc, were given. The conference posted six of its most important recommendations being home visits for mother counselling, system to be developed between line departments
and with civil society organisations, requirement of special strategy for unreached areas, leadership programmes for officials and field staff, integration of small millets snacks in AWCs, delegation of responsibility on
child undernutrition to the collectors, setting up of grassroots, monitoring of ICDS works by local governance involving SHGs & PRI representatives through building their content and capacity etc.
The event was concluded with vote of thanks by all participants.