3rd Poshan Maah: An all-out drive against malnutrition

Abhishek Dayal, Director, PIB Imphal
The 3rd Rashtriya Poshan Maah (3rd National Nutrition Month) is being celebrated this month across the country in the backdrop of the raging Covid19 pandemic and economic downturn. In the grim scenario, it would be appropriate to note that the perennial problem of malnutrition, especially among women and children, has been a persistent and debilitating reality in many parts of our country.
In 2018, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched ‘Poshan Abhiyaan’ to address this problem by generating awareness among the people on the issues involved and force local administration including panchayats to take concrete measures to address it in a time bound manner. As a part of this mission, PoshanMaah is celebrated in the month of September to encourage people’s participation or Jan Bhagidaari.
Prime Minister’s commitment to this programme is second to none.  Launching this year’s campaign on social media PM tweeted, “Proper nutrition is vital to build a prosperous nation. #POSHANMaah2020 starts today. Let us undertake efforts to reach out to people across the length and breadth of India and spread awareness on eradicating malnutrition. This will help our Nari Shakti and Yuva Shakti.” He also launched a “PoshanMaah” recipe contest. “Let’s be #Local4Poshan! Our nation is home to dozens of healthy dishes, which have high nutrition value. Share them on a specially created space on @mygovindia. May your family recipe contribute to a nutritious as well as healthy India,” he said in a tweet.
Earlier in his “Mann kiBaat” programme on 30th August 2020, Prime Minister drew attention towards the role played by nutrition in helping children and students to attain their optimum potential. He noted the efforts made during the past few years especially in villages where public participation in nutrition week & nutrition month (PoshanMaah) is converting nutrition awareness into a mass movement.
PoshanMaah 2020
Identification of Severely Acute Malnourished (SAM) Children and their management and plantation of Poshan Vaatikas or “Nutri gardens”, are the focus activities during PoshanMaah 2020, along with awareness generation regarding importance of early breast feeding, need for good nutrition during first 1000 days of life and measures for reducing Anaemia in young women and children.
In this mission, stakeholder Ministries have chalked out their focus areas. For example, Ministry of Education has asked States to conduct Nutrition e-quiz and Meme making competition amongst students. Ministry of Panchayati Raj will conduct special Committee meetings in every gram Panchayat during the month. Ministry of Rural Development has advised States to promote Nutri-gardens with the support of MGNREGA.
Poshan Dashboard
Poshan Abhiyaan has a live dashboard that shows real time participation of various states and districts in this mission. The main themes listed in the dashboard are: Overall nutrition, breast-feeding, complimentary feeding, immunisation, growth monitoring, micronutrients, diarrhoea, hygiene, water and sanitation, anaemia, age of marriage, antenatal checkup, diet and adolescent education.
As can be seen from the list of related areas of focus, it targets the root causes of the poor nutritional status of a large part of our population. The problem is not linked merely with poverty, though it is a major factor, but also with lack of awareness about what is the right nutrition, status of women in society and linked issues like marriage age, sanitation and hygiene etc.
The map of the level of participation in the country on the mission dashboard shows North Eastern states in ‘Below Average’ category. It shows 75 thousand people have so far participated in Assam, 4 thousand in Arunachal Pradesh, 30 thousand in Meghalaya, 4,750 in Nagaland and 3 thousand in Mizoram. Manipur has shown a healthier participation with a figure of 1 lakh 44 thousand people participating. Overall, this level of participation shows that much more awareness is required in these states to prod people to become aware of their nutritional needs. In this context it would be appropriate to point out the figures of best performing states: Tamil Nadu- 1 crore 17 lakhs and Uttar Pradesh 60 lakh. While it is true that overall population in North eastern states is comparatively much lower, but there still remains great scope to spread the idea of this mission amongst the people.
The number of kitchen gardens created in the states is another parameter on the dashboard. While most of the NE states are yet to show significant performance in this criterion, Manipur has taken a lead and has 5876 existing and 3282 newly created kitchen gardens. Corresponding figures for Assam are 598 and 419.
This project is a seamless extension of many other projects like Universal Immunization programme and building of toilets for all (Swachh Abhiyaan). A healthy nation must have a healthy childhood and healthy motherhood. These key ingredients, that were so far sadly lacking for a large part of our population, have to be provided by our elders in our society as a conscious measure. Healthy eating should be a part of our lifestyle and needs our foremost attention. Involvement of family elders, Panchayat bodies, schools, aanganwadi workers, local leaders, government official and media is essential to make this a success.