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Published on: March 31, 2022, 5:39 p.m.
Britannia: Nutrition for the nation
  • Britannia Suposhan Sakhis conducting a community session

By Business India Editorial

About 36 per cent of the children under the age of five in India are too short for their age; 19 per cent are too thin for their height too, while 32 per cent are underweight, says the NFHS 5 data. All these are the various forms in which malnutrition manifests itself. To tackle this, the government of India had launched Poshan Abhiyaan in 2017. This was to be achieved by creating synergies within departments, ensuring better monitoring, generating alerts and timely action for the cause.

In line with this initiative, Britannia Nutrition Foundation (BNF), the CSR arm of India’s largest bakery foods company, Britannia, in partnership with the district ICDS department, has launched its flagship programme Swasth Bharat at Shivpuri district, Madhya Pradesh. The programme was launched in 2019, with a focussed approach towards identifying and treating children with symptoms of ‘severe and moderate acute malnutrition’ (SAM/MAM or wasting), conditions ensuing due to lack of basic nutrition necessary for proper functioning, development and growth.

In cognisance of the value and impact that local collaborations can build, the programme was implemented in partnership with Shaktishali Mahila Sagathan Samiti (SMSS), a Shivpuri-based development organisation. 

The offerings of Swasth Bharat programme have been designed to make it holistic, targeting not just undernourished children but the entire ecosystem in which they grow up, with the foresight to create a lasting impact. The programme is implemented in a two-pronged approach: 

At the anganwadi centre (AWC) level, it provides capacity building support to the anganwadi workers, helpers and ASHA workers and thereby enables them to deliver quality nutrition and health services for children, expectant/new mothers and adolescent girls.

Positive change 

At the community and household level, it fosters community’s participation and ownership through a behaviour change-led intervention, facilitating improvements in mothers’ and caregivers’ knowledge and practice of health, WASH and nutrition. 

The programme is extended through a robust network of women change makers or ‘Suposhan Sakhis’, to ensure deeper penetration and acceptability of the services and information offered through the programme. These women change makers are identified based on their interest to drive positive change in their communities and are trained on basics of nutrition, growth monitoring of children, screening and management of children with SAM & MAM.

The Suposhan Sakhis conduct outreach and promote participation of target groups in the anganwadi activities, conduct awareness sessions, facilitate setting up and maintenance of nutrition gardens or poshan vatikas in households of SAM & MAM children, pregnant & lactating women, monitor growth of children, provide support to anganwadi and ASHA workers in regularising consumption of iron & folic acid supplements, institutional deliveries and in the delivery of ‘take home ration’ (THR) at the doorsteps of beneficiaries.

The initiative aided Shivnandan, a 20-month-old child from a tribal family in Jamonia village, Shivpuri district, who was diagnosed as SAM. His family at that time lacked the awareness and confidence to admit Shivanandan to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) for a proper treatment. The counselling and support provided by Suposhan Sakhis encouraged Shivnandan’s family to admit him to NRC. He has been discharged now and is leading a healthy life. 

Every year, thousands of children like Shivnandan go un-diagnosed and suffer the consequences of malnutrition. BNF till date has invested about Rs1 crore towards this cause in Shivpuri and is continuously striving towards expanding its reach and impact. 

The programme that started as a small pilot in one village has now spread across 37 villages, 21 slums and 76 AWCs in Shivpuri. There are more than 300 Suposhan Sakhis, who have till date touched the lives of over 4,000 children, 822 of them being diagnosed as SAM. But what is most satisfying and motivating is to see the increasing interest, engagement and knowledge of the entire community towards nutrition and health, for only that will pave the way towards sustainable development.

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