Undernutrition Garners Little Attention in Indian Media

Undernutrition is an emergency in India, where almost half of all children under the age of three are underweight. However, even in the face of such a crisis, this issue garners little attention in Indian media.

POSHAN Media Fellows
POSHAN Media Fellows

To address the lack of nutrition reporting in India, POSHAN and OneWorld Foundation implemented the six-month OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition from May–December 2013. Six journalists from various media outlets such as The New York Times, Dainik Jagran, The Hindu, Chapte Chapte, The Hindustan Times, and www.newsclick.in participated in the program.

On March 19th, POSHAN and OneWorld organized a workshop with the six media fellows to share their learnings from their reporting from the field. The workshop focused on their experiences and observations during the course of their travels to various parts of the country collectively preparing over 30 pieces on mother and child undernutrition.

Many fellows spoke about the huge problems they saw in the field with nutrition services for the poor. For example, Mukesh Kejriwal of Dainik Jagran presented photos exposing flaws with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. One photo showed a broken-down Anganwadi centre without a roof. He spoke about the lack of commitment of officials at the centres that he visited, and how in one centre, the officials had locked up the materials that were meant to be used for the welfare of children.

Malavika Vyawahare from The New York Times spoke about how there is no proper compilation of nutrition data on which the government can actually base its work. She also spoke of an instance in which she saw a modern, electric weighing machine in an Anganwadi centre in a tribal district in Maharashtra, which was useless because that part of the country is not connected to the electricity grid.

Neha Dikshit, who wrote her articles for www.newsclick.in, focused on the fact that some of the government schemes meant to improve the plight of rural women and children have in fact been detrimental for them. She mentioned how a Haryana government scheme providing cash assistance to marriageable women led to teen marriages, deaths of pregnant girls, and parents started forced schools to give under-age certificates.

Pankaj Jaiswal, from The Hindustan Times, spoke about the existence of undernutrition in the so-called 'well fed' urban population. Thanking the fellowship program for raising his awareness on the issues, he said that he is likely to keep writing on the issue.

Freelance journalist Saadia Azim spoke about how migrants are facing the brunt of nutrition problems. During her travels to villages in Bengal, she found that poor diet haunted all migrants, regardless of caste, religion, or even region. For her, a huge issue was that nobody was even talking about malnutrition as an election issue.

The fellows concluded the meeting with a consensus on how much more the media needs to do in terms of reporting on nutrition. They stressed that the issue of undernutrition has an impact on national security and wellbeing of the country and thus needs to be taken up much more in the media and addressed by the government.

Learn more by visiting the OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition site to read all the news articles.

POSHAN New Policy Note Explores Lessons Learned in Working Multisectorally to Improve Nutrition Globally and India

Photo Credit Aishwarya Pillai
Photo Credit Aishwarya Pillai

It is recognized that eliminating undernutrition requires actions across multiple sectors.  A child must receive food with adequate energy, protein, and micronutrients while at the same time having access to safe water, good sanitation, and quality health care.  However, services that need to be delivered are typically not led by the same sector, agency, or actor.  The agricultural sector, for example, focuses mostly on food production. The health sector usually focuses on clinical care, rather than on care and feeding in the home.

Though it is recognized that working multisectorally is critical to ensuring that adequate food, health, and care reach children, it isn’t always clear how to do so and it is rarely easy. With an aim of garnering lessons learned that could inform India’s policymakers and program implementers, POSHAN commissioned a review of global and Indian experience in improving nutrition through multiple sectors. The new Policy Note Working Multisectorally to Improve Nutrition: Global Lessons and Current Status (Please see below the paper)  in India examines best practices from other countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Senegal, and Thailand, as well as the status of current multisectoral initiatives in India in nutrition, which include the Multisectoral Nutrition Programme to Address Maternal and Child Undernutrition, which was conceived in 2008 by the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges and launched in 2014. The paper features recommendations to ensure better implementation and sustainability of multisectoral approaches in India.

Last year in May 2013, POSHAN had organized a consultation on multisectoral approaches to improve maternal and child nutrition in India and had brought together key policymakers and policy advisers from a variety of ministries at the national level and from the Indian states of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. This event highlighted lessons and experiences from other countries and from India.

Download the POSHAN Policy Note Working Multisectorally to Improve Nutrition Globally and India.pdf (661 Kb)

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