FOOD, NUTRITION AND WELL-BEING

A special series supported by the United Nations

India has the highest numbers of malnourished children in the world. Food as well as the right to food have become urgent issues in the country, occupying the attention of both the government and citizens. At this crucial juncture Women’s Feature Service (WFS), with support from the United Nations, brought out a series of 40 specially commissioned features that scoped the issues of hunger, nutrition and productive lives with specific focus on the states of Rajasthan and Orissa. Through these features WFS provided an aggregated and comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground and highlighted interventions that address the concern which have been undertaken by the Government of India, UN organisations, as well as civil society groups.


India:
Seeds, Roots, Leaves: Tribal Odisha's Food For Desperate Times
By Sarada Lahangir

Sarasmati Majhi, 35, an adivasi widow, lives in Kashipur block of Rayagada district, which falls in Odisha's hunger belt. It is for people like her that measures like the National Food Security Bill are being contemplated in distant Delhi. But so far, Majhi's situation has remained unchanged. She knows her children should not be eating the gruel of tamarind seeds but she has no alternative. They need to eat something, don't they? Over 85 per cent of people here live below the poverty line. Rice is a luxury and every household tries to hoard their reserves for as long as possible by resorting to supplementary fare like 'gurudi saag' (leaves from nearby forests), tamarind seeds, wild mushrooms and roots. The monsoon, the hungriest time because wage employment is unavailable and the fields are flooded, is when many are driven to subsist on grass and women like Majhi even use preserved mango kernels that sometimes have deadly consequences.

* She makes a dare that has a tragic ring about it, "You can come and search our homes; you won't find a grain of rice."


WFS REF NO: INDKC12U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
How Is The World's Largest Child Development Programme Working In Rajasthan?
By Rakesh Kumar

Anganwadi centres were set up under the Integrated Child Development Services to combat child hunger and malnutrition and will have to play a key role if the National Food Security Bill is to be effective. An anganwadi worker, a woman from within the community, is trained to provide supplementary nutrition to children below six years and pregnant and nursing women. She is also equipped to give antenatal and postnatal care, organise pre-school activities and provide health and nutritional education to families. Sounds like the perfect scheme to fight India's endemic child malnourishment? Step into the rural Anganwadi Centre No. 2 at Shivdaspura, near Jaipur, Rajasthan, and all myths will be busted. The one-room premises - catering to 18 women, 35 children and 40 adolescent girls - has no space to cook the hot afternoon meal or store the supplementary nutrition rations. Moreover, the anganwadi worker maintains only one register with the details of enrolled women and children - as opposed to the 10 that is required to be filled - and has nothing to show in terms of the monthly growth chart of the children.

* 'There is a shortage of Child Development and Protection Officers and ones that have been recruited do not inspect the anganwadis regularly. Also, of 144 centres surveyed, only 70 had anganwadi workers who have studied up to Class 8.'


WFS REF NO: INDKC13U                                                        1,240 words
Photographs Available


India:
Forests Are Still The Most Reliable Source Of Food In Kandhamal
By Saadia Azim

The communally sensitive district of Kandhamal in Odisha tops the table in terms of infant mortality and maternal mortality, not just in the state but in the country. One of the major reasons for this is that more than 50 per cent of the Scheduled Tribe population in this remote hilly region has no access to adequate food, with government interventions like the public distribution system (PDS) having failed to reach many. Agriculture is the predominant occupation of the people here, but the small, rain-fed holdings yield little and at least half the population live below the poverty line. Given their lack of resources, forests continue to be the most reliable source of food for local communities.

* "The tribals do not know what to eat or what not to eat. They just survive. It is snowing this winter in some parts of Daringbari block, up in the hills. People do not have stored food nor have access to fresh food. That is the reality here."


WFS REF NO: INDKC21U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
One Issue That Unites MPs Across Parties: Young Parliamentarians Engage With Malnutrition
By Neerja Chowdhury

When data from the National Family Health Survey III (2006) revealed that almost every second child under five in India was malnourished, it became a topic of conversation in the Central Hall of Parliament. Some of the country's young Parliamentarians then expressed an interest in understanding the issue better and coming up with ways to tackle it. That was how a group, initially comprising five MPs and eminent citizens - which christened itself 'Citizens Alliance Against Malnutrition' - came together and went on a journey of discovery. By personally visiting districts that had high levels of child malnutrition, and sharing their experiences with the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition, chief ministers and others, they helped put an urgent but invisible issue on the political map. And this non-partisan effort is only going to get bigger. A national campaign, which will be the result of the joint efforts of Bollywood's Aamir Khan and Prasoon Joshi, the Government of India, UNICEF India and the Citizens Alliance Against Malnutrition, is soon expected to roll out on the scale of the campaign that was mounted against polio.

* Said Sachin Pilot, MP and minister, "Today I, for one, consider this to be on top of my political priorities as an elected representative."


WFS REF NO: INDKC19U                                                       1,290 words
Photographs Available


India:
Pre-School, Play, A Plate Of Food: Transforming Tribal Children In 60 Days
By Pamela Philipose

Life in the tribal belt of Udaipur district, Rajasthan, is rough and it is the children who pay the highest price, with no schooling and little nutrition. This is where the Kaya Training Centre, run by the Udaipur-based organisation Seva Mandir, is making a difference. Under this programme, three residential camps of 60 days duration are held in a well-equipped campus every year for around 180 children, many of them children of migrants. If a child completes three such camps, she or he would be able to learn some basic reading and writing, imparted through child-friendly methods, and could then go to a regular school. But what is striking about this intervention is the emphasis placed on nutritious meals, which includes soya milk and fresh vegetables.

* Initially, the children find the food difficult to digest, since most of them come from homes where there is little food. They also don't know what a toilet is. We explain to them the importance of keeping clean.'


WFS REF NO: INDKC20U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Fixed Deposits Of Grain Turn To Gold
By Sarada Lahangir

Time was when mounting pressures caused by crop failures or deaths in the family forced the inhabitants of the innumerable villages that dot Odisha's Koraput district to seek loans from the local 'sahukar' (money lender) at very high rates of interest. This often meant starvation at home and the local media has reported that even children were being forced into bonded labour or being sold. Today, what began as an experiment by the Society for Promoting Rural Education and Education - the setting up of grain banks - has helped to change the scenario. Grain banks have now become more than a way to feed families; they have become symbols of self-respect and community ownership. Recognising the positive impacts of such interventions, international agencies like the World Food Programme has stepped in and helped to set up hundreds of grain banks in states like Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.

* 'Every year, I used to borrow money from the sahukar at 50 per cent interest. Three years ago I could not repay the money and the sahukar's people came and took away my entire harvest. There was no food in the house and my children were starving.'


WFS REF NO: INDL104U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Nutrition Gardens And Seed Banks: Women Farmers Adapt To Climate Change
By Aditi Kapoor

While world leaders at the December 2011 Durban meet may have postponed taking hard decisions, the impacts of climate change on farming activities and hunger and malnutrition levels in India has been significant. The recent Rajasthan draft State-level Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) recognises malnutrition, especially among women, as a major concern, while the Orissa SAPCC predicts that "drier areas will become drier and flood-prone areas will be subject to more flooding". But where leaders have failed, women are taking matters into their own hands. Innovative measures by women farmers across the country are helping several poor families adapt to climate change and keep hunger at bay. Village-level grain banks are already hugely successful, while other adaptations like seed banks, fodder banks and 'nutrition gardens' are catching up.

* Earlier, we could not produce enough food for a year because our village would get water-logged by the flood waters. Now, using early maturing paddy varieties and organic manure … we can eat for all twelve months…'


WFS REF NO: INDL102U                                                        1,210 words
Photographs Available


India:
New-Age Moms Struggle To Breast Feed
By Rakesh Kumar

Dr Smita Dashora, 36, was back to work just five weeks after she delivered her daughter in November 2011. She runs an antenatal clinic at Jaipur's Santokhba Durlabji Memorial Hospital (SDMH) where she offers holistic care to pregnant women. Being a gynaecologist, Dashora knows that a new mother needs to be at home for at least six months after having given birth to ensure that the baby is exclusively breastfed - mother's milk is vital as it provides complete nutrition. But a thriving career has only meant that she has been unable to practice what she preaches. Although awareness of the six-month rule has increased in a city like Jaipur, busy city women like Dr Dashora and her colleague, Dr Aarti Midha, who was back to the hospital after an interval of six weeks, find it hard not to add a formula feed to the baby's diet after four months. Paediatricians do have a way out for the new-age moms though: Expressed breast milk (EBM) that can be stored at room temperature for 6-8 hours or in the fridge for 24 hours.

* Dr Dashora expresses one feed manually and two feeds before leaving for work. "But I don't think I can continue doing this. I'll have to add one formula feed. There's so much work pressure and my diet is also not what it should be."


WFS REF NO: INDL103U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
Erratic Rains? Unexpected Drought? Odisha Rice's Up To The Challenge
By Manipadma Jena

Odisha has its share of both floods and droughts, leaving the paddy farmers of the state - many of whom are women because calamity induced migration has forced the able-bodied young men to migrate to cities - in a quandary. This is where some interesting innovations in rice seed production and cultivation practices have helped to make a difference. For instance, tribal paddy farmer Santi Khanda of Balabhadrapur village in Nayagar district, was able to harvest 30 kilos of paddy from her four decimal land holding (1 acre is 100 decimals) despite the erratic rains of 2011, and feed her family. How did she do it?

* "The work of the scientists… is changing our agriculture and spearheading a remarkable silent revolution."


WFS REF NO: INDL110U                                                        1,180 words
Photographs Available


India:
HUNGaMa Report: Mothers Tell The Malnutrition Story
By Pamela Philipose

The HUNGaMA Survey Report that revealed that 42 per cent of Indian children are malnourished and 59 per cent, stunted - causing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to comment that malnutrition is a matter of "national shame" - underlines again how women's low status, poor empowerment and lack of agency lie at the heart of one of India's most formidable challenges. Rohini Mukherjee of Naandi Foundation, team leader of the Report, puts this way, "If children aged 0 to 6 could speak, if women had education, decision making powers and entitlements, the scenario would have been totally different." Yet, as data from this survey reveals, biases and neglect mark out the girl from early childhood.

* 'To my mind, we are in an emergency situation. As a nation, we need to be made more conscious of nutrition.'


WFS REF NO: INDL111U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Jaipur's Seema: 20 Years, 30 Kg, 16-Hour Working Day
By Anumeha Yadav

Seema Vairva, a dalit, lives inside one of the many dingy, dilapidated structures that migrant labourers have made makeshift houses out of in the middle of Mansarovar, one of Jaipur's largest residential complexes. A domestic worker, she takes a break mid-day to look after her eight-month-old son. The frail 20-year-old weighs a mere 30 kg and she along with her son has been diagnosed with 'khoon ki kami' (anaemia) by several doctors. Her infant son weighs 6 kg, a case of 'moderate malnutrition' by Integrated Child Development Scheme standards. The typical food intake in the Vairva household comprises rotis, leftover dal or a seasonal 'sabzi', sometimes milk, almost never any fruit. Vairva tries to give her son some semolina or banana, but there is never any for her. In the bustling Rajasthan state capital there are hundreds of Seema Vairvas, women who work in the informal sector and who can't even scrape together one nutritious meal a day for themselves and their children.

* During her pregnancy Vairva continued her work routine almost till the day she gave birth and lived on roti and some 'subzi'. "I had a craving for oranges, so sometimes I would eat roti with oranges," she smiles.


WFS REF NO: INDL109U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
Ancient Koraput's Farming Ways Can Help India Feed Its People
By Sarada Lahangir

Koraput - a highland plateau in the Eastern Ghats - tops the list of poverty-prone and food insecure districts in Odisha. Yet, it is a veritable treasure trove in terms of biodiversity - with 2,500 species of flowering plants, angiosperms, gymnosperms and ferns. Its agro-biodiversity includes 340 landraces (ancient or primitive cultivated varieties of a crop) of paddy, eight species of minor millets, nine species of pulses, five species of oil seeds, three species of fibrous plants and seven species of vegetables. For Dr M.S. Swaminathan, considered the father of India's green revolution, Koraput is a testament to the wisdom of tribal farmers, who have been able to conserve genes, seeds, grains and water and fight against hunger and food insecurity by using traditional practices over 3,000 years. According to Swaminathan, the need of the hour is to marry such traditional wisdom with frontline technology, and replicate the Koraput model to fight hunger in other parts of India.

* "We in the cities conclude that because tribals haven't gone to university, they have no knowledge. But they have a deep knowledge gained from the university of life, especially when it comes to agricultural practices."


WFS REF NO: INDL116U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
Rajasthan's Legislators Walk The Talk On Nutrition
By Rakesh Kumar

It was a fact-finding trip that helped Members of the Rajasthan State Assembly to better understand ways to address the grim scenario of hunger and malnutrition in their state. Last November a team of seven MLAs, led by Suryakanta Vyas, chairperson of the Women and Child Welfare Committee of the state assembly, had visited neighbouring Madhya Pradesh to study best practices. Today, they have become strong advocates of a community-based approach to nutrition care and are now working to make service delivery more effective in their state.

* 'In Rajasthan, a good many of the women enrolled with an anganwadi do not reap any benefits from it. We want to change this reality.'


WFS REF NO: INDL117U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Cooking Meals Out Of Nothing: Flood Survivor's Fare In A Bhubaneswar Slum
By Sharmistha Chowdhury

The floods that ravaged Odisha in 2009 also wreaked havoc in the life of 19-year-old Rosmita Barik. She was desperate to finish school and hopefully get a job which would help pull her family out of its crushing poverty. But the flood waters sank all hope. Fleeing was the only option. Her parents took shelter in a relief camp near their village in Bhadrak district, but sent Rosmita to the state capital of Bhubaneswar. Even today, living in debt as they do, Rosmita's parents imagine that their daughter is "better-off". But here's how her life has unfolded: In the single room at Narayani Basti that she calls home, Rosmita lives with her elder sister, an alcoholic bother-in-law and little nephew; she sleeps on cardboard covered with sheets; and the most challenging part of her day is when she has to cook meals - while her bother-in-law and nephew get rice and dal at least once a day, the women make do with stale rice eaten with salt and some green chillies.

* "We cannot afford to cook vegetables so we eat rotis with salt and green chillies. But my nephew is too young to take to the taste of chillies and so it is only roti and salt for him. Naturally, every now and then, he rebels."


WFS REF NO: INDL118U                                                        1,290 words
Photographs Available


India:
For A Fair Child, Eat This; For A Boy, Eat That! - Pregnancy Linked Foods And Fads
By Aastha Kant

Dietary dos and donts during pregnancy are conditioned by a system of beliefs, which is culturally rooted and could vary from region to region. Interviews with women from a resettlement area in Delhi reveal how female members of the conjugal family 'monitor' a woman's pregnancy and take all the decisions, particularly those related to her diet. Interestingly, the pregnant woman's food patterns change with the advancement of her pregnancy. Yet, all this extra attention and pampering is not so much for the well-being of the expectant mother but for the baby she is going to give birth to in the near future.

* 'This time I have a craving for 'saag' (spinach), but my husband's grandmother doesn't let me have any. She believes that if I eat it, my baby will have excessive hair...'


WFS REF NO: INDL123U                                                        1,280 words
Photographs Available


India:
To Secure GenNext: Mother's Milk And Tender Care
By Elisa Patnaik

After the birth of her third baby in a public hospital, Soudamini Rout, a homemaker from Odisha's Puri district, is only now being counselled on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. Improper infant feeding practices is one of the reasons why her state has the second highest infant mortality rates in India. Early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant's life assumes critical importance in such a scenario, with research having established that this could reduce under-five child deaths by about 16 per cent. Fortunately, the state government is now trying to do more on this front: It has begun to observe a Nutrition Day for the management of severely malnourished children and is training hospital-based health workers on imparting correct advice to new mothers. Recently, in partnership with UNICEF and the Odisha Voluntary Health Association (OVHA) has also launched 'Surakhya', an initiative meant to spread awareness among mothers about breastfeeding, with the focus on seven out of the state's 30 districts where infant feeding practices are poor.

* "Colostrum is vital for a newborn but it is not enough. Early initiation of breastfeeding is a must for both the newborn and the mother - it prevents the baby from developing hypoglycaemia and assists in the adequate secretion of milk."


WFS REF NO: INDL124U                                                        1,280 words
Photographs Available


India:
Why Do Boys Get All The Milk?
By Anumeha Yadav

Sapna Berva is 14 but she could pass off for being half her age. The oldest of five siblings, Berva is less than five feet tall and underweight. Her father works as a helper in a small restaurant in Jaipur, Rajasthan's state capital, while her mother is a peon in a local private school. Their economic means are limited and that is how Berva explains her family decisions on who will get to eat what within the household - while the four sisters get the staple of roti and sabzi, their brother also gets milk - twice a day. Sarita Kumhar, 26, a construction worker in the city, too, sends her son to her mother's house, so that "at least one of my children gets fully taken care of". Her two daughters share a meagre meal with the parents on site. The question of who will get to eat what within the household remains obscure and is rarely part of the public discourse even now when the National Food Security Bill is being discussed.

* "The government launched the 'Sabla' scheme for adolescent girls in 200 districts last year, but why only as a scheme, why not as a right?"


WFS REF NO: INDL125U                                                        1,180 words
Photographs Available


India:
Look Who Gets Left Behind In The Scramble For Public Rations
By Anumeha Yadav

Tulsibai and her husband Harlal Bhil, 60, were bonded labourers. Harlal became a hali, or bonded labourer, when he was 12 after borrowing Rs 1,200 from a landlord in Chittorgarh district in Rajasthan. Now he has been turned away by the landlord as he is too weak to work long hours. Tulsibai worked for the same landlord tending to cattle on his farm, until severe arthritis got to her. Today, to scrape through one meal a day, which mostly consists of a paste of garlic, onion, and a few coriander leaves that they eat along with a couple of leftover rotis, elderly Harlal seeks work as daily wager. He and his wife do not exist on state records. They have no ration card, no MNREGA card. In May 2010, the Rajasthan government began PDS reforms - creating a state Below Poverty Line (BPL) list to extend the benefit of ration cards to a greater number of rural families, fixing a week every month when ration shops must stay open. But the improvements notwithstanding, for many the situation continues to be dire.

* In Baran district, despite special schemes being marked for their benefit, it is the families working as halis or bonded labourers among the Sahariyas, a primitive tribe, who do not figure on ration card lists.


WFS REF NO: INDL130                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
Food For All: Innovative Governance From Rural Women Leaders
By Sriparna Ganguly Chaudhuri

Like many other panchayats of Odisha's Nuapada district, the anganwadi centre in Sabita Pradhan's Silva Gram Panchayat was plagued with irregular food supply. The quantity of food served to children was less than the stipulated amount and no food was being served on Sundays. That's when Sabita decided to take action. She gathered the elected women representatives of her panchayat and sent a written complaint to the Right to Food Court, setting off a chain of events. The court ordered the Women & Child Development Department to look into the matter, which passed it onto the District Collector. The Child Development Project Officer was asked to take strict action with the result that today most of the ICDS centres here are functioning properly and remain open even on Sundays. Sabita and her one million women colleagues in 2,40,452 Gram Panchayats across India may have inherited the monumental challenge of providing food security to every family in their constituency, but having struggled to raise families of their own, they are eager to ensure that no child goes to sleep hungry.

* "People are corrupt and want to make money at the cost of the poor. My role is to constantly monitor and continuously update the citizens on their rights and entitlements."


WFS REF NO: INDL131U                                                        1,290 words
Photographs Available


India:
Rural Women Entrepreneurs Produce Nutrition In A Bag
By Pamela Philipose

In a small factory in Banswara in southern Rajasthan, the women of a rural Self Help Group run a unit that produces one metric tonne of a nutritional supplement every day. This, in turn, reaches 7,000 children and around 3,000 pregnant and lactating mothers every month through a network of 172 state government-run anganwadis. The model is a useful one since it combines two potentially transformational interventions - a regular nutritional supplement for children aged between 6 to 36 months and pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as the generation of sustainable employment for poor women from rural backgrounds. The supplement has been developed by World Food Programme in partnership with GAIN, an international organisation working on nutrition, and in consultation with the Government of Rajasthan.

* 'The change is amazing to observe, when you consider that these women had barely stepped outside their village. They have succeeded in maintaining a system of quality control that has surprised even the lab technicians to whom we send samples of the material produced.'


WFS REF NO: INDL201                                                       1,150 words
Photographs Available


India:
Lighting Up Young Lives Through Mid Day Meals In 'Sun City'
By Neena Bhandari

As the clock chimes 11 am, Neetu Yadav, 10, and her classmates' eyes turn expectantly from the blackboard to the school gates. As the roar of the approaching autorickshaw carrying their Mid Day Meal grows louder, the 35 students at the government-run Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Ghanchiyon ki Gufa, Saraswati Nagar in Jodhpur, erupt into a loud cheer. Jodhpur, located in western Rajasthan, is the state's second largest city, with a population of around 3.68 million. The city prides itself on its educational institutions and the average literacy rate is 81.56 per cent - with female literacy registering 73.93 per cent - impressive figures, given that average literacy in the state is 67 per cent. This is why an initiative like the Mid Day Meal scheme assumes so much importance here. And no one can put it better than little Neetu: "I like to come to school because I get to eat good food!"

* "This has been one of the better schemes for its usefulness and effective implementation. It has also helped break caste barriers since all the children sit and eat together."


WFS REF NO: INDL206U                                                        1,270 words
Photographs Available


India:
Catching 'Em Young In Odisha: Red Alert On Anaemic Teens
By Sarada Lahangir

A 2007 survey in the tribal-dominated Tentulikhunti block of Nawrangpur district in Odisha revealed that of 501 adolescent girls surveyed, 281 were extremely anaemic, just like Budei Jani of Damaguda village, whose haemoglobin level was as low as 4.4 grams. She says, "My periods were irregular and sometimes I felt so weak that I couldn't walk properly." This sorry situation prodded the state government into introducing, in 2009, the Adolescent Anaemia Control Programme, which adopted the direct observational approach, with 52 tablets of iron and folic acid a year being directly administered to each teenager. The authorities desperately hope their efforts will prove successful and that the health profile of adolescent girls improves, but the hurdles cannot be overlooked. Sometimes, even if the tablets are supplied, there is no guarantee they will be consumed. There is also the problem of high malaria incidence and hookworm infestations.

* "In our home my father and brother always ate first, and we - my mother, my sister and myself - managed with what was left."


WFS REF NO: INDL207U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
Brick By Brick, Grain By Grain, Gyarsi Bai And Team Stock Up Against Starvation
By Anumeha Yadav

Rajasthan's Baran district and the Sahariya tribal families living there have come to national attention because of several hunger deaths in the community. Reports of starvation also surfaced as late as 2004 and 2009. But the Sahariyas of Baran have decided to break free from their "starved" existence. In Sunda village of Kishanganj block, Gyarsi Bai Sahariya, a community activist and local NGO worker, has got together with other villagers to set up their first grain bank. The modalities have been worked out: A start-up stock of five quintals has been stored at the local anganwadi; each household has been told to contribute five kilos of wheat from their portion of public rations to keep the stocks going; and a local youngster, who can "count till 100", has been appointed to keep the accounts.

* "When we fled from the landlords' farms our biggest concern was where will we get food, now that no landlord will employ us. By pooling together five kilos of wheat each, we are no longer worried about going hungry."


WFS REF NO: INDL208U                                                        1,200 words
Photographs Available


India:
What Do Working Children Eat? Ask 11-year-old Puspa
By Sharmistha Chaudhury

The Bharatpur slum in Odisha's capital, Bhubaneshwar is a picture of despair: Mud houses with plastic sheets for roofs, refuse scattered around and the stench of human excreta everywhere. But what catches the eye more than the general squalor are ragged, hungry looking children wandering around listlessly. It is against this backdrop that the Swatantra Jatiya Shishu Sramik Vidyalaya (Special National Child Labour School) stands out like a beacon of hope, delivering non-formal education, and good food, to working children and dropouts in the 9-14 age group, with the ultimate aim of sending them to regular schools. The impact of alcoholism and drug abuse on malnutrition levels of children has never been seriously studied nor has the issue made it into any policy framework or interventions on the ground. But there can be no denying that in the Bharatpur slum, poor food intake among children is very closely linked to broader life patterns, dependencies and addictions.

* "In our last batch we had a girl who used to consume at least 50 packets of gutkha a day. She was an addict. But slowly we cured her of the habit."


WFS REF NO: INDL213U                                                        1,290 words
Photographs Available


India:
Nutritious Cuisine From The Arid Earth: Kitchen Tales Of Bishnoi Women
By Neena Bhandari

Picture this: The landscape is brown-and-yellow. The weather is dry. The winds are dusty. We are in Jodhpur, located in the vast Thar Desert of western Rajasthan. But travel 22 kilometres southeast of the historical city and one arrives at a small green oasis. We are in Guda Bishnoiyan village, whose 8,434-strong populace, largely the environment-friendly Bishnoi community, can teach people a thing or two about survival, conservation, and most importantly, eking out a nutritious meal from arid environs and sandy soils. Women like Chunni Bishnoi have mastered the use of indigenous fruits and other vegetation, which have been sources of survival for generations, especially during drought. Chiefly, the thorny Khejari tree enables Chunni to provide her children with a wholesome meal all the year round - its long needle-like fruit, Sangari, is a staple in most homes here. Then there's Kair, a berry rich in minerals and protein, as also Kumatiya, another small circular, flat, black-brown fruit, which is a good source of fibre and is commonly prepared with Sangri and Kair.

* Sangari is the star of Chunni's kitchens. It can be dried and stored for an unlimited period and cooked whenever required.


WFS REF NO: INDL214U                                                        1,280 words
Photographs Available


India:
Mainstreaming Malnutrition In The Political Agenda In Odhisha
By Elisa Patnaik

Food insecurity continues to plague the eastern state of Odisha owing to frequent droughts and floods, the failure of the public distribution system (PDS), ineffective implementation of government schemes and the lack of appropriate livelihood options. But for a state infamous for malnutrition and starvation, serious discussions on this critical issue by legislators in the Assembly are few and far between. It's only when 'starvation deaths' and 'distress child sales' come into the limelight that there is pandemonium in the Odisha Legislative Assembly. But even then the debates revolve around how the deaths occurred and not on whether hunger and malnutrition prevail in the area. Today, education and exposure visits for MLAs and regular interaction between government, academics, civil society activists and the media on food security are imperative to mainstreaming malnutrition into the political agenda.

* Says Baijayant Panda, MP, Biju Janata Dal (BJD, the ruling party in Odisha) and a member of the Citizens Alliance on Malnutrition, "It helps if broad political support is created; joint efforts with editors and political leaders helps to project the importance of the issue."


WFS REF NO: INDL215U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Land Rights For Women Means Better Food For Families
By Manipadma Jena

When the women of Odisha's Kharibandh hamlet got titles to farmland, it resulted in fields bursting with vegetables and nutrition levels within households rising dramatically. In July 2010, all the families here were given possession of plots measuring one-tenth of an acre of homestead land under 'Vasundhara', an Odisha government scheme for landless families that has been facilitated by the Bhubaneswar-based non-profit, Rural Development Institute. Today, Kharibandh hamlet is just more proof that when women have assets in their own name, especially secure rights to land, the rise in their status and power within the community and the household translates into the well-being of the entire family.

* "Because the houses stand on unclaimed private land, we women who had formed self help groups, decided to use our entire plots to grow vegetables."


WFS REF NO: INDL220U                                                        1,210 words
Photographs Available


India:
How Rajasthan Hopes To Win The Battle Against Anaemia
By Rakesh Kumar

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has long been talking about his government's plan to battle malnutrition and anaemia through food fortification. In February 2010, food fortification was launched as a pilot in 11 districts of the state. Recently the Rajasthan government has rolled out an ambitious project through which fortified foods - wheat flour and edible oil in the first phase and milk later - would be made available in the open market. In January 2012, according to state government sources, 78,589 metric tonne wheat was ground into fortified flour at 65 mills across the state and 7.46 million 10 kg bags were distributed through fair price shops.

* "We will build capacity, train mill owners and their staff and provide them equipment for fortification and quality assurance."


WFS REF NO: INDL221U                                                        1,050 words
Photographs Available


India:
Starring Aamir Khan In The Fight Against Malnutrition
By Aditi Bishnoi

Aamir Khan will soon be seen regularly on television and in the newspapers; his voice will be heard on the radio; his posters will be plastered across cities and towns in India. What's new about that? Being India's top movie star he is no stranger to people or publicity. But there is a difference this time round. Khan is reaching out to people to talk about 'kuposhan', or malnutrition. Surprised? Don't be. He is the face of a comprehensive public service campaign designed by the government, the Citizens' Alliance against Malnutrition, UNICEF, and poet-ad guru Prasoon Joshi. Using creatively produced ad films, radio spots and other material, they hope to alert and educate people in the simplest possible ways about a public health crisis that looms large in India today.

* Question: 'What is malnutrition?' Answer One: 'Hmmm… is it when poor people don't get food to eat?' Answer Two: 'I think it is something that happens in Africa.' Answer Three: 'Why do you ask this question? What has it got to do with me?'


WFS REF NO: INDL222U                                                        780 words
Photographs Available


India:
In This Tribal Pocket, Ration Cards Turn Smart
By Sarada Lahangir

Bar codes are helping to put an end to rampant pilferage that marked the public distribution system (PDS) in Rayagada, a tribal district in Odisha, where some of the poorest in the country live. They are ensuring that women like Madi Eswari, 50, of Kolanara block keep hunger at bay. An initiative of the Odisha state government in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), it has been undertaken with the view to strengthen the food distribution system through biometric-based technology. Already 22,000 bogus cards have been identified and removed thanks to this approach, which has resulted in saving Rs 3 crore in just one year. The authorities are now working to fine tune the model and make it more effective.

* Observes Rayagada district collector Dr Nitin Bhanu Das Jawale, "There were loopholes in the traditional public distribution system… Rampant pilferage of items was going on. The scenario started changing fast after we introduced the biometric-based smart card project."


WFS REF NO: INDL227U                                                        1,260 words
Photographs Available


India:
The Lost Mothers Of Rajasthan
Neena Bhandari

The fruit and vegetables growing wild on the barren desert lands of Rajasthan may be providing food and nutrition security to the local people, but this region is one of the highest contributors to India's abysmal Maternal Mortality Ratio and Infant Mortality Rate. A combination of factors like early marriage, early motherhood, a poor diet - even though a wholesome fare of 'raab' (ground bajra cooked in buttermilk), moth beans and 'bajre ki roti' is consumed in most homes, women and girls usually eat last, and the least, in the family - and inadequate care during and after pregnancy, are responsible for the state registering an alarming MMR of 388 per 100,000 live births. Shamu Meghwal, 25, and her sisters-in-law, Santosh and Bhagwati, 22, hailing from the dusty village of Jhakaron ki Dhani, 25 kilometres from Jodhpur, may have survived difficult pregnancies but they are constantly battling anaemia, back and abdominal pain and dizzy spells like many other young women in the region.

* "These women are already at a lower level of health when they get pregnant. They don't receive proper nutrition, especially vital during pregnancy. This makes them anaemic, resulting in long-term health consequences."


WFS REF NO: INDL228U                                                        1,280 words
Photographs Available


India:
Good Food Can Also Be Cheap Food: Harvesting Nutrition
Pamela Philipose

Travelling in rural India always yields rich insights into how poor women struggle to provide that little extra, in terms of food, for the family meal. In Chhali village, for instance, I came across a farmyard that had a patch of straw lying seemingly inconsequentially in one corner of the field. Tucked away under it, like a batch of golden eggs, were eight large, earth-coloured pumpkins. Carefully managed, these would provide the family with a vegetable dish for at least three months of the year - and pumpkins are high in beta carotene and other important micronutrients. It is precisely practices like these that Dr C. Gopalan, one of India's best known nutrition scientists, had advocated for a post-Independent India that was looking to put its tragic legacy of famines and hunger behind it. Today, he continues to reiterate that food-based nutrition is the way to go; that farms, not pharmacies, should solve India's nutrition related problems.

* Says Dr Prema Ramachandran, "India has a wealth of local vegetables. Take the 'greens' family, innumerable varieties abound depending on region - the 'palak' of the Punjab or ponnakerai keerai of Tamil Nadu to take just two."


WFS REF NO: INDL305U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
City Lights And City Nightmares: Lives Running On Empty
Sarada Lahangir

It is a search for better times. Men and women from Odisha's hinterland, fleeing from parched or flooded fields, hope to gain a foothold in cities like Bhubaneswar. But once they come here, they end up living a hand-to-mouth existence. A recent UNICEF report highlighted the fact that of India's urban population of 377 million, around 97 million are poor and live on very little. This number could include children like 14-year-old Chingudi Samal, resident of a Bhubaneswar slum, who goes to school after eating a bowl of rice mixed with water, with half an onion or a boiled potato.

* 'We don't have a BPL card so we have to get rice from the local market at Rs 20 per kilo and 'dal' at Rs 80 a kilo. Can you imagine how difficult it is for us to survive?'


WFS REF NO: INDL306U                                                        1,260 words
Photographs Available


India:
Camel's Milk Is The Way To Go For Food Security
Neena Bhandari

In the marginal drylands of Rajasthan, the camel is the lifeline of the local population. For families like that of Janav Khan of Sam village, 45 kilometres from the tourist city of Jaisalmer, the versatile 'ship of the desert' provides invaluable economic and food security. Khan's two camels offer him livelihood - tourists enjoy camel rides on the sand dunes - and his family with much-needed nutrition: His two sons and a daughter, all below 10 years, drink camel milk twice a day. According to Bikaner-based National Research Centre on Camel, though not widely consumed, camel milk is not only richer in moisture and protein content in comparison to the more acceptable buffalo or cow milk, it is also fortified with minerals and protective enzymes. Undoubtedly, promoting camel milk would be the obvious and cost-effective way towards improving the health of desert communities living in far-flung areas.

* 'The demand for camel milk is growing because of its many benefits. There is a very low rate of diabetes and cancer in our community... It is also in great demand by people suffering from allergies, diabetes and liver problems.'


WFS REF NO: INDL307U                                                        1,230 words
Photographs Available


India:
Olympic Medals? An Undernourished Nation Cannot Be A Sporting Nation
Mahtab S. Bamji

When the question of India's poor standing in the area of sports is raised, blame is put on a variety of factors like the lack of a sporting culture, poor funding, inadequate training opportunities, inability to identify talent at an early age, and so on. Important as these are, the basic issue is that a malnourished nation cannot be a sporting nation. Finally, it comes down to this: No health without good nutrition. Over the years, some improvement has occurred in terms of reduced mortality. But the resistant problem of malnutrition continues to defy a solution. Thus, almost 30 per cent of infants in India have low birth weight (less than 2.5 kilos). Almost 50 per cent pre-school children suffer from protein calorie malnutrition as judged by anthropometric indicators like wasting and stunting, and the past decade has seen little improvement. Nearly 30 per cent of adults are also undernourished as judged by the body mass index and there is rampant deficiency of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Before India thinks of winning international sports medals, it needs to look closely at what its ordinary citizens are eating.

* 'Today, countries in transition like India are facing the double burden of pre-transition diseases like undernutrition and infections, and post-transition degenerative diseases like obesity and associated conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, cancer and arthritis.'


WFS REF NO: INDL312U                                                        1,270 words
Photographs Available


India:
In Sandy Heart Of Thar, Canal Water And Nutritious Food
Neena Bhandari

Not long ago, the remote communities in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan eked out a living from a single annual crop of millet (bajra), dependent on the mercy of rain gods. Droughts were common, and the 48-degree Celsius heat of the summer sun, frequent sandstorms and no water posed a major challenge for survival. Then, in the mid-1980's, the Indira Gandhi Canal Project brought the waters of the Sutlej and Beas rivers to the parched Thar desert, transforming the landscape and the lives of its inhabitants. In Hamir Nada ki Dhani of Mohangarh panchayat, well-irrigated fields have reaped rich dividends. Most homes display signs of prosperity - 'pucca' structures, with TV antennas and satellite dishes adorning the rooftops - and, for once, food is aplenty. Women like Aladini Sanwera, Durga Kanwar and others are harvesting wheat, cluster beans, mustard, groundnut and gram from family farms, which not only keeps their children well-fed and healthy, there's enough left to sell in the local market, too.

* "Since we started receiving water for irrigation, most homes can afford to cook green vegetables, markedly absent in our diet earlier. Families now have the money to buy seasonal fruits like banana, oranges and papaya."


WFS REF NO: INDL313U                                                        1,280 words
Photographs Available


India:
An Urgent Policy Boost For Odisha's Hungry
Elisa Patnaik

Even with rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, the persistence of severe malnutrition remains a major area of concern in Odisha. The fact that districts that fare poorly on nutrition are the very ones that are marked by poor education, health and physical infrastructure, has only heightened this concern. While the experts have come up with many recommendations and enabling measures for a way out of this grave crisis, the state government has recently decided to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to battle malnutrition: Plans are now in place to implement a policy on food fortification; ensure convergence between various departments and establish nutrition rehabilitation centres for the treatment of children with acute malnutrition.

* Says Arti Ahuja, Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the Women & Child Development Department, "Tackling malnutrition, especially among children, women and other vulnerable sections, is our priority."


WFS REF NO: INDL314U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


India:
Number Crunching: Putting Food On Rajasthan's Budget Plate
Rakesh Kumar

During the sixth session of the Rajasthan Assembly, which had 15 sittings from February 15 to March 23, 2011, only four questions on nutrition were raised. Although the issues that were raised were serious enough and ranged from buildings for anganwadi centres to vacancies in the post of child development and protection officers under the Integrated Child Development Services, these subjects could have got more attention. While Rajasthan is the only state in the country to have carried out a mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan and its Planning Board has also prepared an approach paper for the 12th Plan, suggesting an integrated and collective approach towards issues like nutrition, mainstreaming such ideas continues to be a challenge. This is why its legislators need to play a more pro-active role.

* "It's not about insufficient budget as much as about ineffective expenditure. The number of operational anganwadi centres in the state is still much below the sanctioned number..."


WFS REF NO: INDL319U                                                        1,270 words
Photographs Available


India:
Married at 14, Mothers At 15: Child Brides Of Tribal Odisha

While travelling in Odisha's tribal belt of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, and Nawrangpur district, one comes across innumerable girls who got married when they were still children and now, still in their teens, hold babies in their arms. According to UNICEF's State of the World's Children Report, 2012, over 37 per cent girls in the state marry before they are 18 - the legally sanctioned age - and 13 per cent of men get married before they are 21, the legal age of marriage for men. The practice has serious repercussions for the young women in this region, who are in any case malnourished. Poor nutritional intake and early marriage make for a dangerous set of circumstances.

* "The general recommendation as far as caloric intake is concerned is that women need about 1750 to 2000 calories per day. Expectant mothers should consume 300 extra calories per day. But the average tribal woman consumes less than a 1000 calories a day whether or not she is pregnant or feeding her baby."


WFS REF NO: INDL320U                                                        1,270 words
Photographs Available


India:
More Foodgrains Or Nutrient-Rich Foods: What Will Help India Tackle Malnutrition?
Smita Deodhar

Persistent malnutrition continues to cast a pall on India's growth story. Despite vast improvements in the country's economic status over the last two decades, food security eludes the poor to such an extent that India ranks a dismal 67th among 81 countries on the International Food Policy Research Institute's Global Hunger Index 2011. This, despite a slew of targeted government-run food supplementation schemes that have been running for several decades. Today, momentum is building for a legislation that will entitle almost 80 per cent Indians to get subsidised foodgrains. But here's a question that bears asking: Will quantitative expansion alone solve our deep malnutrition crisis, or are quality-driven, community-specific interventions the demand of the times? Two on-going studies, initiated by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), the premier Mumbai-based research institute, are looking at the nutritional status and practices related to women and children in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and in the eastern state of Jharkhand for some answers.

* 'The Right to Food is a must but a larger variety of food groups needs to be made available... each region needs to be scrutinised to identify specific problems and devise specific interventions, because conditions differ from state to state and community to community.'


WFS REF NO: INDL321U                                                        1,250 words
Photographs Available


home| current features | media centre | theme of the month wfs services | archives |conferences | about us