Despite being a fast-growing economy with various anti-malnutrition programmes that have been embarked upon, India with a growing population of 135.26 crores has the maximum number of malnourished children in the world; with one in every three children suffering from malnourishment. With severe health effects, irreversible if they occur at a young age, malnourishment leads to permanent disabilities, rendering children ill for the rest of their lives. It can lead to short and long term health problems, slow recovery from wounds and illness, higher risk of infection and difficulty in focusing at work or while attending school.
Basis the 2011 census, 97 million children out of 472 million are anaemic and undernourished. The primary reason behind 69 per cent deaths of children below the age of five in India, according to UNICEF’S The State of World’s Children 2019 reports, malnourishment continues to be the silent killer. The Global Nutrition Report, 2018 also reiterated the crisis of malnutrition by concluding that India topped the list of the most number of stunted children with 46.6 million children being recorded as having low height for their age.
As malnutrition is one of the foremost problems that continues to become a hindrance in the future of the nation, Welspun Foundation for Health & Knowledge, the Corporate Social Value arm of Welspun Group, has dedicated its focus and efforts to change these daunting statistics and to ensure healthy and happy childhoods for the children of India
Name: Hina Jadeja
Age: 20 years
Village: Khambra Village, Anjar
Height: 5 feet 8 inches
Weight during first visit: 3.10.18: 45 Kg, Hb: 7gm per cent
Weight after seven months: 4.5.19: 61 Kg Hb 12gm per cent
Hina was malnourished and anaemic with no other underlying condition. She was lethargic with low self-confidence and poor concentration. She suffered from menstrual irregularities, persistent headaches and low blood pressure. There were repeated counselling sessions on food and nutrition that were conducted to guide her on daily nutritional intake through a diet chart. These charts entailed food that was readily available and affordable, for instance, vegetables like spinach, coriander, lentils, jaggery, milk along with iron-folic acid tablets as well as calcium and protein supplements. With all these combined efforts, Hina was able to achieve a permissible BMI given her age along with the required level of haemoglobin. She is healthy now with haemoglobin of 12gm per cent and a weight of 61kg. Hina has now completed her graduation and is looking forward to a bright and healthy future.
As malnutrition is one of the foremost problems that continues to become a hindrance in the future of the nation, Welspun Foundation for Health & Knowledge, the Corporate Social Value arm of Welspun Group, has dedicated its focus and efforts to change these daunting statistics and to ensure healthy and happy childhoods for the children of India. At the Foundation, we have devised a multi-pronged approach to tackle the problem of malnutrition with our Wel-Netrutva programme. This project focuses on women’s health and hygiene, along with the health of children by undertaking numerous initiatives like organising medical camps, creating awareness drives, conducting workshops and training, especially during menstruation amongst various communities in Telangana, Gujarat, MP, UP and Bihar.
As nutrition is one of the important indicators that determines all the health issues like menstrual hygiene, reproductive tract illness (RTI), sexually transmitted illness (STI), and cancer, etc., we target this crucial subject through our interventions
We focus on children and women between 0-45 years of age. Interventions begin at the Anganwadi where we take care of the needs of women who are pregnant and going up to women in their 40s. The programme is active in 100 villages of Anjar, Gujarat, and 70 villages of Vapi, Gujarat, along with two villages in Saharanpur and one village in Dewas. To begin with, the team assesses the prevalence of malnourishment in the baseline population by measuring the height, weight and haemoglobin levels as per the directives of WHO. During this groundwork research, if there is a serious case that requires immediate medical attention, they are referred to the village’s primary health centre or government hospital.
Name: Kolo Sanjay
Village: Kotda Ugaman
Age: 4 years
Weight during first visit: (1.5.19): 11 kg, Initial Height: 103 cms
Weight after a year (6.1.20): 13 Kg, Height: 107 cms
Sanjay was suffering from malnourishment and had low birth weight. At four years of age, he was unable to put on weight. His symptoms included lethargy, never stepping out to play and maintaining minimal interaction with others. He suffered frequent illness like diarrhoea and upper and lower respiratory tract infections. The team measured his height on the scale used for two years old and below.
After repeated home visits and counselling his parents (mostly his mother about food and nutrition), planned diet and medicines like deworming and multivitamins, Sanjay put on two kilos in eight months. His illnesses have become less frequent, he is playful and also participates in the various activities at the Anganwadi Centre. He is now on the road to a healthy and happy childhood.
At WEL sites – Saharanpur, Dewas and Amravati, we work with women and young girls within the age of 10-45 years on their health-related issues. The intervention not only focuses on curative healthcare but also focuses on preventive health care, to ensure that healthy habits are inculcated in their lives, which will slowly impact their families as well. As nutrition is one of the important indicators that determines all the health issues like menstrual hygiene, reproductive tract illness (RTI), sexually transmitted illness (STI), and cancer, etc., we target this crucial subject through our interventions. Working on nutrition, we also cover issues of Menstrual Hygiene Management since women and young girls are prone to being anaemic due to menstrual cycle.
A few of the specific interventions that we are undertaking on-site include:
Formation of Nutrition Garden: A strong perception in the village is that eating nutritious food is an expensive affair and people with marginalised income cannot afford one. We identified 50 women at Amravati and they have been trained on how seasonal food can be nutritious and how growing them in their kitchen garden will not only help their finances but will also ensure that the families get adequate nutrition. In the next two months, we will be training these 50 women on the skills of developing kitchen gardens and will help create them in their houses. To make this a successful activity, we have collaborated with a government department to procure seed kits which will help these women in developing their garden.
We strongly believe that empowering a woman helps in empowering the family and also helps in upliftment of the community at large
Integration with VHN Day: Under the National Health Mission, Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND) was identified to provide primary care services (health, nutrition and sanitation) at the village level. In collaboration with public health functionaries, this day is organised monthly at the villages. The primary focus of the day is to tackle the issue of anaemia in adolescents and young girls. To do this, anaemia testing is conducted along with the distribution of iron-folic tablets to girls and women. This activity is conducted regularly at Saharanpur, Dewas, and was recently started at Amravati.
Name: Devangi Joshi
Age: 3 years, 9 months old
Village: Atlnagar, Bhuj, Gujarat
Devangi’s parents were labourers who worked in shifts to make ends meet. Devangi would stay back with her younger sister in the house. With irregularities in food pattern, the habit of consuming packet wafers and low nutritive food consumption, the Joshi girls suffered from malnutrition.
Anganwadi worker, Kalpnaben Kerashiya, always had an eye on these sisters. She never missed an opportunity to convince Devangi’s mother to send her kids to the Centre. However, the mother was not very convinced. The Aganwadi worker shared her concerns with Wel-Netrutva Cluster Health Leader (CHL). They both planned a visit to Devangi’s house and tactfully convinced the mother of two malnourished children by strategically giving examples of healthy children from the surroundings and educated the mother on mental and physical health. Devangi’s mother became keenly alert when the extremity of malnutrition was shared.
The mother decided to send Devangi to the Aganwadi Centre the very next day itself. Devangi had a fun time playing with kids her age. She would quickly eat the nutritious food that was served at the Centre. She also began grasping social etiquettes. Her mother could see the positive difference in her weight and behaviour. In just 25 days, she gained half a kilogram. She now weighs 12 kg from the earlier 11.5 kg. Devangi’s mother was impressed with the changes to her daughter that she decided to send her second daughter to the Centre as well.
Creating Awareness and Encouraging Behaviour Change: To spread the message, we organise sessions and carry out activities in the community with women to educate them on the importance of adequate and proper nutrition. While conducting these sessions, we focus on the importance of locally available and seasonal food. In the last one year, we have successfully conducted more than 100 such sessions targeting close to 10,000 women and young girls in the districts of Anjar and Vapi in Gujarat.
Counselling Sessions for Adolescents and Young Girls: Regular sessions to address issues related to menstrual hygiene and health management are conducted by experts for young girls and women. These sessions aim to ensure that women can adopt healthy food habits and are also able to address anaemia condition. In the last one year, we have organised around 20 such counselling sessions and reached out to more than 300 young girls and women individually. In addition to this, we also conduct happiness and, yoga sessions accompanied by sessions about the precautions that need to be taken for COVID-19.
At Welspun, we have always worked towards building trust with our stakeholders and continue to function with high ethical standards while putting community wellbeing, along with sustainability, at the core of our operations. We aim to make a difference in the society with our key philosophy, enshrined with the three E’s that include Education, Empowerment and Environment and Health.
We strongly believe that empowering a woman helps in empowering the family and also helps in upliftment of the community at large and, therefore, Welspun aspires to increase its reach yearly and help women bring about a change. We will continue to strengthen our inclusive growth strategy, and through various projects, we aim to impact women, their families and communities.
Dipali Goenka is CEO & Jt MD, Welspun India Limited.