MUMBAI, India - A high level meeting was recently held in Mumbai, under the leadership of Shri Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, to bring attention to the importance of child nutrition.
Among the panelists were leaders from the private sector, Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra, nutrition experts, NGOs, academics and young parliamentarians including Jay Panda and Sachin Pilot
A common declaration to fight child malnutrition was issued and the Chief Minister declared the '1,000 Days Initiative' (Hazaar Diwas Balache) to reduce the incidence of child malnutrition in the state by 50% over the next 5 years with focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under two.
The government will prepare a three pronged action plan to address malnutrition in key areas of the state including, high burden tribal areas; urban slums; and low Human Development Index (HDI) blocks of the state.
While, the Comprehensive Nutrition Survey of Maharashtra (CNSM) report has already shown an encouraging reduction in the extent of stunting, wasting and under-weight in under- two children in the state, the government further aims to reduce the incidence of 'low birth weight' (LBW) by half in the next 5 years.
A key result of this high level advocacy meeting was that the government decided to set up a Maharashtra Alliance against Malnutrition (MAAM) under the stewardship of Chief Minister that will include representatives from government, UNICEF, corporations, NGOs, academics and the media. The group will monitor the nutrition situation every 3 months, review policy and suggest initiatives to improve the situation.
The involvement of diverse stakeholders from civil society makes this alliance effective as each stakeholder brings a unique proposition and strength. For example, the government acknowledges the presence of NGOs working in urban slums and tribal areas in this sector, and seeks their productive support in this endeavour.
The government also expects local body institutions and elected representatives at all levels, from gram panchayats to the Parliament, to play a key role in mobilising community participation for reducing malnutrition.
The Alliance will develop an effective communication strategy, using IT, health and nutrition knowledge videos and mobile technology. It will aim to create awareness, behaviour change and community participation for achieving its objectives. It will seek media cooperation in this endeavour.
Also, releasing the importance of the corporate sector in the current context, the government proposes to declare its long term CSR policy on nutrition to generate confidence in govt.’s commitment to forging alliances to reduce malnutrition.
The Maharashtra government also realises the important role of data generation and the Alliance will establish a Technical Hub for the generation, analysis and dissemination of quality and reliable data related to maternal and child nutrition.
With the highest level of commitment from policy makers and civil society, to eliminate malnutrition, Maharashtra has become a model for other states and the CM has also expressed his willingness to support other Indian states, in this mission.