Sunday, July 21, 2024

Focus on better nutrition for children in the state


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Survey finds 46.5% of children in M’laya are stunted; 26.6% are underweight

SHILLONG, July 2: A two-day training programme conducted by the Meghalaya Early Childhood Development Mission (MECDM) concluded at the Pasteur Institute, Ganesh Das Maternal and Child Health Hospital on Tuesday.
The sensitisation programme titled ‘Nutrition through Life Cycle Approach’ aimed at exploring opportunities for early childhood interventions to improve the health of children in the state from the levels recorded during the National Family Health Survey or NFHS-5.
The survey said 46.5% of children under 5 years of age are stunted, 12.1% experience wasting, and 26.6% are underweight in Meghalaya.
While these statistics highlight current challenges, they also underscore the potential for impactful interventions. Improving children’s nutrition can lead to substantial benefits in their physical development and cognitive abilities, laying a strong foundation for future learning and growth.
The Performance Grading Index Report for Districts by the Union Ministry of Education in 2023 showed Meghalaya has room for improvement in learning outcomes. By focusing on enhancing nutrition, the state can pave the way for better educational performance and the overall well-being of its young population.
The training on July 1 and 2, conducted in collaboration with IIT-Bombay using the Health Spoken Tutorial pedagogy, focused on the techniques of exclusive breastfeeding, a critical component of early childhood nutrition. Apart from breastfeeding, it covered essential topics such as protein and carbohydrate calculation, understanding various nutrients, reflecting on nutritional counts, and modifying diets accordingly.
The principles of complementary feeding were also discussed. The training’s objective was to combat high stunting rates caused through incorrect breast feeding practices and the right knowledge on nutritional practices.
Recent field visits led by Development Commissioner Sampath Kumar revealed that some mothers are not producing enough breast milk, making them introduce complementary feeding before their infants reach six months of age, believing their children are still hungry while being fed with breast milk alone. Furthermore, the provision of unsanitary and unscientific complementary foods has tragically led to child deaths from infections and septicemia.
The training commenced with Ronald Kynta, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MECDM welcoming the resource persons from IIT-Bombay, Rupal Dalal and Devaji Patil.
Kynta emphasized the urgency of addressing poor nutritional outcomes in Meghalaya, citing concerning statistics from NFHS. He also said many mothers in the region do not practice exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with some introducing complementary feeding as early as three months. These practices, he noted, are prevalent in both rural and urban areas in Meghalaya.
The first day began with a session facilitated by Dr. Patil, the consultant for the Health Spoken Tutorial Project at IIT-Bombay, simplifying the concepts of protein and carbohydrate calculations. He emphasized the need for pregnant and lactating mothers to consume at least 80 grams of protein daily while decreasing their carbohydrate intake.
This was followed by a three-hour session on breastfeeding where Dr. Rupal, Adjunct Associate Professor at CTARA, IIT-Bombay, demonstrated correct techniques using a baby doll and presented educational videos to improve comprehension. Dr. Dalal also emphasized the importance of reducing junk food intake, recommending that instead of purchasing biscuits, individuals opt for eggs as a healthier, protein-rich substitute.
Dr. Patil also conducted the session on the second day, which began with participants sharing their experiences from the first day. They discussed the 45 key points on breastfeeding techniques they had learned and applied during their visit to the maternity ward. The participants also visited the Ganesh Das Maternity Ward, where they demonstrated proper breastfeeding techniques with the mothers, including the correct position and latch.
This hands-on experience provided valuable knowledge and skills to the participants, enhancing their ability to support and educate mothers in their communities. The participants were also divided into groups for interactive sessions and group activities.
One of the lady supervisors said, “Visiting the maternity ward and sharing knowledge with the mothers is a first-of-its-kind experience here. It is beneficial because the mothers also gain valuable insights. In Meghalaya, many women practice breastfeeding incorrectly, and this training will help both the trainers and the mothers to improve their techniques.”
Addressing the gathering, Sampath Kumar emphasized the critical issue of stunting among children in the state. He highlighted the techniques to address stunting, covering the importance of breastfeeding and cognitive development, community mobilization, empathy, and interactive play with children.
“This initiative is a significant step forward for Meghalaya. As trained officials, it is crucial to carry this important responsibility forward and utilize your skills to their fullest potential to benefit your communities,” he said.
The training camp had 53 participants, including district programme officers, child development project officers, lady supervisors from the Social Welfare Department, district nursing instructors, supervisors from the Health Department, and district functional specialists from the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society/National Rural Livelihoods Mission, cluster coordinators as well as programme managers from the ECD Mission, and development associates from the State Capability Enhancement Project.


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