Spreading awareness about complementary feeding by celebrating annaprasan divas at a Anganwadi centre at Dindori, Madhya Pradesh
Spreading awareness about complementary feeding by celebrating annaprasan divas at a Anganwadi centre at Dindori, Madhya Pradesh Twitter @WCD_Dindori

Engaging The Private Sector In Poshan Abhiyaan

IMPAct4Nutrition is a platform for the private sector to actively engage and build a social movement with their employees, customers and employees’ families who form a part of their business ecosystem, and support the Poshan Abhiyaan.

Outlook Web Bureau | Mar 13, 2019

Malnourishment is 100 percent preventable. No child has to be malnourished, and no mother has to be anaemic. Stressing on the importance of the Indian government’s flagship Poshan Abhiyaan or Nutrition Mission in order to improve the nutritional status of children under 6 and of adolescent girls and lactating mothers, several private sector entities Wednesday pledged to support the initiative.

IMPAct4Nutrtion, an initiative convened by UNICEF, Tata Trusts, Sight and Life, CSRBOX, CII, WeCan and NASSCOM Foundation was launched in New Delhi.

IMPAct4Nutrition is a platform for the private sector to actively engage and build a social movement with their employees, customers and employees’ families who form a part of their business ecosystem, and support the Poshan Abhiyaan.

Speaking at the event, NITI Aayog Advisor, Alok Kumar, said that one-third of the children in India are growing up stunted and tackling malnutrition is a key challenge for India. “This needs to change for a nation that is doing well in many other areas, and we need to come together to tackle the problem of malnutrition,” he said.

“The government can’t do it alone,” he said, adding that the private sector needs to join forces with the government as part of the Jan Andolan or peoples' movement to tackle malnutrition.

He said while the Government with its schemes has done a lot to strengthen the supply side response, it needs cooperation from the private sector and civil society to address the demand side. He gave examples of “junk food” products in the market, which are available in all kinds of convenient packs. He urged the private sector to take up experimental projects to come up with similar packages and solutions for nutritious food.

“Only nine per cent of the children in the age group 6 to 24 months in our country receive adequate nutrition. Perhaps the main reason is lack of awareness around nutrition issues. This requires inducing behavioural change in a campaign mode to reach every household,” he added.

Arjan De Wagt, Chief Nutrition, Unicef India, emphasised that malnutrition is 100 percent preventable. “A child can’t grow to his or her full potential due to lack of nutrition, which also affects brain development. In adulthood, such a person is unable to work properly.”

“When a child is 6-8 months old, he or she is given rice and thin daal from an adult’s plate. At that stage a child does not have the capacity to digest an adult’s food. Therefore knowledge about nutrition is essential. Nutrition literacy is necessary,” Arjan said.

Lack of nutrition also impacts brain development, leading to diminished mental ability and learning capacity, which also leads to reduced earnings in life. Malnutrition also leads to increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and obesity in later life, he added.

He described IMPAct4Nutrition as a platform to engage and support the private sector to increase nutrition awareness and improve Nutrition Literacy – or health, hygiene, food and literacy. Besides becoming a part of the Poshan Abhiyaan, it will also give companies a chance to impact social and economic change by promoting malnutrition free families.

Through nutritional literacy and better nutritional status of employees, the initiative aims to have more productive and better performing employees.

Outlining the benefits of investing in nutrition, he said it would lead to boost in the GNP, prevent child mortality, boost wages rate, and make children 33% more likely to escape poverty as adults.

Dr Rajan Sankar, Senior Advisor, Nutrition, Tata Trusts, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, said that food fortification is a very important aspect of nutrition. To a question on why some of those who need nutrition the most sometimes get left out, he said that service delivery needs to be improved. Better delivery of services will lead to people seeking the services.

Before the formal launch of the initiative, companies like Bosch, Arvind Mills, Moody’s Analytics and CareNX Innovations pledged their support to the platform.

IMPAct4Nutrition will engage companies in three strategic areas, which businesses term as the ACE card and this includes assets/core business for nutrition, cash/CSR for nutrition as well as employee engagement for nutrition.

The platform will provide educational material, program information and act as a businesses link to the larger movement around Poshan Abhiyaan. It will coordinate with, support and help in working together for a healthy India.