UPSC CSE MAINS SYLLABUS – GS – 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Fighting Malnutrition – Community Action & Women
- 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.
What the data show:
- 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.
What is needed:
- While providing hot cooked meals frontline health workers also have the opportunity to give pregnant women iron, folic acid and calcium tablets.
- They are also engaged in early childhood stimulation activities and parenting sessions. Instead of frontline workers going to each woman’s house, women coming to the anganwadi make it easier to provide all women with appropriate services and counselling.
- Mothers’ lunch groups at the anganwadi can also function as informal social networks.
- A study by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) of Karnataka’s Mathrupoorna programme for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers found a reduction in anaemia, improved gestational weight gain, improved birth weight, and reduced depression among women participants.
- Beyond the “first thousand days”, the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and its social determinants call for a life cycle approach.
- Such an approach should address the complex social ill of child marriage.
- One of the best ways to prevent child marriage is by supporting girls to stay in high school.
- Grass roots social empowerment programmes should focus on increasing girls’ enrolment, access and retention in secondary education.
- The nutritional status of adolescent girls could be improved by extending the mid-day meal programme to secondary educational institutions, as some states have done.
- Malnutrition should also be understood in the context of women’s work.
- Childcare enables women to earn a livelihood.
- Longer working hours for the anganwadi, such as in Karnataka where it runs from 9.30 am to 4 pm, will help women go out to do paid work, including on MGNREGA worksites.
- Mobile creches for younger children at these worksites and construction sites will help women to work without anxiety about their children’s safety and well-being.
- The anganwadi system needs strengthening.
- Anganwadi supervisors can be supported with interest-free loans and fuel allowance for two-wheelers, enabling them to provide regular guidance to their cluster.
- Their skills should be upgraded with certificate courses on nutrition and early childhood stimulation.
- Online training at scale has been the discovery of the pandemic
- Anganwadi workers and supervisors can be supported for professional development through live online sessions on nutrition, growth monitoring and early childhood education.
- Anganwadi infrastructure needs attention: Sturdy buildings, kitchens, stores, toilets, play areas and fenced compounds, functional water connections and arrangements for handwashing are urgent imperatives.
- To cater to multiple meal requirements, anganwadi kitchens need double-burner stoves, gas cylinders, pressure cookers and sufficient steel cooking vessels.
- Kitchen gardens should be planted with drought-resistant and highly nutritive plants like moringa.
- The most effective platform for community action on the ground is the gram panchayat.
- The panchayat should be the first mile for social welfare services.
- There are around 2,50,000 gram panchayats in India, and nearly 14 lakh anganwadis, the majority in rural areas.
- The anganwadi committee, chaired by a stakeholder mother and including other parents, grandparents and the panchayat ward member, should be a subcommittee of the gram panchayat.
- It should meet every month on a fixed day, and its discussions should be presented to the gram panchayat for action.
- Exclusion and convergence are two major challenges in social welfare programmes. Local governments are the best placed to address the problem of exclusion.
- They can ensure coverage of the poorest women and children, especially nomadic and semi-nomadic communities, and seasonal migrants such as brick workers and sugarcane harvesters.
- Panchayats are also the best forum to prevent child marriage and ensure that all girls stay in school.
- Further, 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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