ChildFund has had a footprint in India’s Keonjhar District for a number of years and there is a well-established early childhood development (ECD) program. According to growth monitoring records, only one child under age 5 can be classified as moderately malnourished, and there are no cases of severe acute malnutrition. That’s not to say that severe malnutrition never existed here. Rashmita (20) recalls the problems that plagued her daughter, Smruti (2 years, 8 months) when she was younger and affected by severe acute malnutrition. “She used to not be a happy child, but now she has such joy.” On the day ChildFund staff visit, Smruti is busy playing in the sand pit in the courtyard of the ChildFund-supported ECD center, while Rashmita gathers with other mothers outside to attend a positive parenting and nutritional information session. It was at a ChildFund-supported growth monitoring session that Smruti was first identified as being severely malnourished over a year ago. Thanks to the nutritional training for her mother – and the diet Smruti receives on weekdays at the ECD center (eggs, rice, vegetables) – her nutritional status has gradually improved over the last year to where she can be said to be performing well and at healthy growth levels.
ChildFund and local partner staff conduct anemia detection clinics for mothers and children in the villages. The disease, which stems from iron deficiency, often accompanies malnutrition in both children and adults. The outreach clinic is hosted at the local ChildFund-supported ECD center and facilitated by local partner staff and a volunteer guide mother from the community. A government of India health worker administers the blood test on the front porch of the ECD center while the volunteer mother keeps records. Inside, a community health worker from the government of India, surrounded by the healthy fruits and vegetables she has brought with her as props, informs mothers on how they can provide proper nutrition for their children without having to look for food outside the village. Today, the vast majority of roughly a dozen mothers and their children are found to be anemic; only one mother and young daughter are found to be without the condition. At the end of the clinic, affected mothers are given iron and folic acid supplement tablets, while children are given a syrup. It becomes ChildFund’s role to continue to monitor the children’s growth at monthly growth-monitoring sessions and to provide food supplements to those families who are severely malnourished.
Another related intervention is the “positive deviance” mothers’ cooking program. During these cooking sessions, women with healthy children (those who deviate positively from the norm) hold a cooking session with women with malnourished children in the village. The mothers with healthy children coach those with malnourished children on healthy ingredients, food preparation and eating habits for their children. ChildFund has also helped parents in this area to establish and maintain vegetable gardens in their backyards through the distribution of quality seeds and horticultural training, ensuring that families have ready access to nutritious food.