India: After two successful years of Dettol Banega Swasth India’s nutrition initiative, the Reach Each Child programme has made a significant impact on the community to achieve zero child deaths due to malnutrition in Amravati and Nandurbar districts and save thousands of lives. Through consistent efforts and on-ground interventions, the programme today supports thousands of children under the age of five by creating a cadre of frontline workers for nutrition named Community Nutrition Workers.
To support the nation in its fight against undernutrition, Reckitt and Plan India have been constantly working towards improving maternal and child health standards in India by investing in better nutrition. With its continuous interventions on the ground, the programme was able to produce a social value of Rs 37 from each rupee invested. The 3rd phase of the Reach Each Child initiative, launched in 2021, provides support and care during the first 1000 days of a mother and child’s life. Reach Each Child programme prioritises adequate nutrition for children under the age of five through locally-led initiatives, with community nutrition workers being key suppliers of information and services. The programme has made a significant impact on families in the last two years in Amravati and Nandurbar districts and aims to expand the initiative and extend its support by scaling up its best practices to new mothers across other aspirational districts of India, as well.
The programme’s guiding principles throughout the journey have been adopting a lifecycle approach to nutrition; gender sensitivity and inclusivity; community ownership and early prevention. The initiative is constructed around reducing the number of stunted children under-5 by 40 per cent and reducing and maintaining child wasting to <5 per cent with a multisectoral and multi-dimensional approach.
Speaking on World Nutrition Day, Mr Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs and partnerships, SOA, Reckitt, said, “Good health and wellbeing are at the heart of our purpose at Reckitt, and through our initiatives, we work to protect, heal and nurture for a cleaner and healthier world. We are glad to announce that our pilot interventions under the ‘Reach Each Child’ programme in Nandurbar and Amravati have helped achieve 0 malnutrition deaths among supported children and increased the proportion of women choosing facility-based deliveries by 26 per cent. Our aim with the Reach Each Child initiative is to bring a change in the lives of 10 million new mothers by 2024.”
Commenting on the partnership, Mohd. Asif, Executive Director, Plan India stated: “Our partnership with Reckitt for Reach Each Child programme has helped us bring about a significant change in people’s lives, particularly that of children and mothers. At Plan India, we are all incredibly proud and delighted to be a part of the programme and on the occasion of World Nutrition Day we continue to draw our focus and that of all development actors on developing and deepening the knowledge, skills and confidence of mothers and caregivers of children to proactively maintain healthy pregnancies, protect child’s health through innovative behaviour change communication and community activities.”
India contributes to 1/3rd of the global burden of undernutrition, with 46.6 million stunted children and the highest number of child-wasting across South Asia. According to UNICEF research, India is likely to witness a 10 per cent increase in malnutrition post the pandemic. Given India’s population size, investing in actions to reduce all forms of malnutrition is especially important to attain global targets as nutrition is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Maharashtra was the worst hit in Wave 1 and 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic with the Nandurbar district having the highest positivity rate in the second wave. Dettol BSI’s efforts under the ‘Reach Each Child’ Programme across the state-supported Maharashtra in improving access to care and support for mothers before, during, and after pregnancy and severely malnourished children by refurbishing NRCs and health facilities. The programme ensured that mothers had better access to care by taking up the following targeted interventions such as promoting good nutritional practices, provision of micronutrients through food fortification for all, therapeutic feeding for malnourished children with special foods, increasing intake of vitamins, and minerals for young children and their mothers, providing incentivization via conditional-cash-transfers and others. Endorsed by NITI Aayog, the Reach Each Child Programme was featured as best practices in aspirational districts to fight undernutrition in India.
Taking a step forward in the journey, Reach Each Child plans to install Takhti at Zilla Parishad offices of all villages across Amravati and Nandurbar that have witnessed zero deaths due to malnutrition. As part of the celebration, community nutrition workers will also demonstrate the steps and benefits of handwashing and conduct panel discussions on the importance of health, hygiene and nutrition in our life. Nutritional experts from NRC will showcase healthy recipes using local produce along with various other engaging and educational activities throughout the day undertaken by Reach Each Child programme volunteers. Also, as part of the initiative “Reach Each Child” a voucher scheme will be launched which would benefit hundreds of children who are malnourished.
Aligned to the Indian Government’s National Health Mission aimed at ending malnutrition and meeting UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, Reckitt developed the ‘Reach Each Child’ initiative along with its partner Plan India to spread awareness and reach every child in the fight against malnutrition.