New Delhi: To understand some of the pressing health issues facing mother and children in India it is important to understand some of the numbers and its context. Only 41.6 per cent of babies are breastfed within an hour of the birth and only 54.9 per cent are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Apart from breastfeeding which is an important foundation for the health of the child and remains an area of concern. 51.4 per cent of women in their reproductive age are anaemic in India, which has a direct impact on children’s nutrition. All these facts and more get prioritised in the Nutrition India Programme Annual Report 2019, a programme that has been conceptualised by Reckitt Benckiser in order to change the nutrition game of the country.
Talking about the programme and how it aims to accelerate and propagate solutions to combat the problem of nutrition in India, Gaurav Jain, Senior Vice President, Health South Asia Reckitt Benckiser said,
One of the most important pillars of Nutrition India Programme is to provide support to mothers and infants by focussing on maternal health so that they get the best start in life. The programme is presently working to support the government to end malnutrition in Maharashtra, in the toughest districts of Amravati and Nandurbar. As per the state government, nearly 94,000 children are severely malnourished in the state. Whereas, in 2017-18 more than 900 children died as a result of complications from malnutrition, stunting and wasting. In last 10 months, RB in these two districts has done a series of initiatives as a part of Nutrition India Programme, as a result of today around 3,900 pregnant women in both these districts know the importance of breastfeeding and good nutrition.
Making Breastfeeding A Habit
Explaining about RB’s breastfeeding pledge and how the women of these two Maharashtra districts were educated about breastfeeding, Ravi Bhatnagar, Director- External Affairs and Partnerships, AMESA RB Health added,
RB has taken a unique pledge – breastfeeding pledge. We support the WHO code recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding for six months of life, and encourage continuous breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond. We commit to actively support breastfeeding for all families we work with to promote the best start of life and optimal nutrition for the first 1000 days. With these golden rules, the Nutrition Programme India has drafted a plan wherein we made our interventions holistic by providing support to new mothers for first 270 days through immunization, hygiene and adequate diet and further take care of both mother and child for two years wherein we provide support through delivery, exclusive breastfeeding and diet diversity.
The project works with local communities to build up a workforce of travelling Community Nutrition Workers (CNWs), who are rigorously trained by a team of public health experts, paediatricians, gynaecologists and community development specialists. Going from village to village, the CNWs delivers simple and effective messaging around nutrition and hygiene to bring about awareness and behavioural change using specially designed games, nutrition kits, multimedia stimuli, and community festivals.
I have seen many women not able to feed their child, some complained of cracked nipples, low milk supply and some were simply unaware about the importance of breastfeeding. As a result, many children earlier used to die in my village as they couldn’t get proper nutrition during the first 1000 days of their life,
said Kaushaliya Pawara who is now working as Community Nutrition Worker, as a part of the Nutrition India Programme (NIP) and is restoring lactation practices within her community and saving the lives of many newborns in Maharashtra.
Kaushaliya Pawara has been provided with tools like an interactive board game which focusses on dos and don’ts for taking care of a baby during first 1000 days of baby’s life, an interactive curriculum that guides women about breastfeeding practices, position.
There is also a colour coded plate, which tells the women the importance of having all the colours in her plate so that she gets the right amount of nutrition – white, for milk and milk products, green, for vegetables, orange, for carrots and tomatoes, or brown colour for chappatis.
With these tools, Kaushaliya reaches out to the women of her area every day and educate them about important topics like breast-feeding, what nutrition should be given to new mothers or expecting mothers and more. Kaushaliya Pawara is not alone, RB’s Nutrition India Programme in last 10 months, has trained a total 41 CNWs, 4 Cluster Coordinators, who are deployed in the two districts of Maharashtra to undertake operations to ensure standard home-based interventions, tailor-made programmes in order to build nutritious societies.
Mr Bhatnagar adds,
We have developed an interactive curriculum for CNWs with the help of the doctors. The curriculum is developed in 4 local languages- Bhil, Pawra, Hindi and Marathi. It is basically an interactive approach wherein women of the area are counselled about safe and proper breastfeeding practices, what type of immunisation they need to be aware of for both the child and themselves before and after the delivery and about the diet they should follow. This interactive curriculum is given to the trained nutrition workers who then go door-to-door and educate the women of their respective village or an area and that’s how a larger section of women are catered.
When Nutrition India Programme first started in Amravati and Nandurbar, around 281 mothers complained of breast conditions like mastitis, engorgement and sore nipples which resulted in feeding difficulties – this was perceived by mothers as “Lactation Failure”. Today, as the Nutrition India Programme catered to more than 3900 pregnant women in both the districts, mostly all know the benefits and importance of breastfeeding practices and are championing the cause of breastfeeding further.
Gaurav Jain adds,
Even if one woman is educated and motivated about following these golden rules of good nutrition, once they start seeing a change – like how healthy they are or their child is, they will motivate their own cluster. And that is the main agenda of this programme – to build nutrition champions, who understand the cause and that’s how nutritious-rich and healthy societies are made.
Installation Of Breastfeeding Pods
Another major achievement of Nutrition India Programme is the installation of breastfeeding pods in the intervention areas, to ensure comfortable and private space for breastfeeding. Explaining the objectives of these breastfeeding pods and facilities being provided, Mr Bhatnagar said,
The aim is to promote and sensitise the practice of breastfeeding in public spaces. Moreover, create social awareness about the practice and its benefits. In these breastfeeding pods which RB is helping in installing, we have an induction stove and utensils for heating food/ water, breast pumps, warmers, ORS powder sachets and hot water bag, water dispenser – free drinking water up to 250 ml, dustbins, towels, hand sanitizer, folding table for supporting a child for change in nappies, toys, handwashing station, dryers and communication of steps of handwashing to name a few.
In the last 10 months, here is the impact that Nutrition India Programme has had in Amravati and Nandurbar districts:
Gaurav Jain says,
The project has been able to mobilise 98 per cent of available pregnant women and about 81 per cent mothers of an available under-five child in the project villages of Amravati and Nandurbar. Today, they are educated about the right practices and are motivating further to change India’s nutrition reality. We have started with these two districts of India, soon over the next 5 years we aim to reach 177,000 mothers of undernourished children across 1,000 villages of India.