India is home to over 60 lac Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) children – and with health systems being overwhelmed in urban and peri-urban areas, and more so during the pandemic era, it is only a matter of time before the health systems in rural India are over run. Hence, the need for community based treatment for malnutrition is more pressing than ever before. Children need access to emergency food that will help them build immunity to get through this crisis. We must ensure that they do not reach the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs).
Due to the disruption of public health services as a result of Covid-19, many children who are at risk due to poor nutrition levels need to be treated at their homes and at the community level – albeit with maximum social distancing. A Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program needs to be undertaken to ensure that the workers and the nutrition and medical resources reach the children, especially the ones who are hard to reach.
For strengthening nutrition, the key programmes must focus on a long-term and effective approach. This includes, solving intergenerational malnutrition, which addresses the problem at its root – enabling mothers to get proper nutrition; improving counselling and encouraging behaviour change activities regarding related aspects such as awareness about nutritional components and WASH; and ensuring diet diversity and availability of nutritious food.
CMAM is a treatment protocol wherein the caregivers of the child are trained in proper nutritional habits, hygiene and breastfeeding practices.
Prevention of Malnutrition requires an amalgamation of various approaches that tackle the diverse factors that lead to intergenerational malnutrition.
The common diets in most rural and urban areas in the country are lopsided towards the consumption of carbohydrates like rice and wheat.