A Campaign To Give Children Of Odisha A Healthy Start

In Odisha, almost 35 per cent of total under-5 child population in the state under-weight, and 45 per cent children in the same age-group suffering from anaemia.

Bhubaneswar: The Voice for Child Rights in Odisha (VCRO), in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY), a leading child rights organisation, launched a campaign to address the issue of child health and malnutrition in five tribal districts of Odisha.

The six-month-long campaign, ‘Giving Children of Odisha A Healthy Start’, will reach out to over 5000 children and 3000 mothers in 158 villages in 10 blocks of Mayurbhanj, Bolangir, Bargarh, Kalahandi and Koraput districts.

Grass-root level NGOs partnering CRY and VCRO will be involved in collection of data from the respective villages to assess the nutritional status of children in the age group of 0-5 years, a statement from CRY said.

With almost 35 per cent of total under-5 child population in the state under-weight, and 45 per cent children in the same age-group suffering from anaemia, Odisha is one of the states which lag behind the National status of child health and malnutrition.

The scenario is even worse in tribal districts, as data suggest. Despite the recent decline in infant and child mortality (IMR and U5MR), the state still fares poorly in comparison to the national estimate. As NFHS 4 data reveals, 40 children (per 1000 live birth) still die within the first year of life, and 49 (per 1000 live birth) die before they reach 5 years of age.

Keeping this in mind, the campaign was launched to reduce the rate of child malnutrition below the national average. The organising NGOs seek to achieve the goal by increasing awareness and participation of the communities and concerned service providers at the village level.

State Social Welfare Board and the Odisha Chapter of National Health Mission (NHM) welcomed the initiative by CRY and VCRO. They also expressed hope that this kind of awareness drives should be extended to the entire state.

Litika Pradhan, Chirperson Social Welfare Board said, “It’s significant that the campaign aims at coordination and convergence of government and non-government bodies to ensure health and nutrition for children and mothers.”

She also advocated for children’s crèches at village level, so that working mothers in rural areas can avail the opportunity to ensure nutrition and care for their children.

Prasant Saboth of NHM said changing the mindset of people is a big challenge. Health and hygiene are important components in reducing malnutrition, and this campaign will go a long way towards building mass awareness and ensuring best practices among the communities.

Explaining the plan and modality of the drive, Ashim Kumar Ghosh, Chief of CRY operations in Odisha said the campaign is divided into two components.

While the first includes growth monitoring of 0-5 years children in the mentioned districts and advocate the development of malnourished children with the support of state agencies and communities, the second aspect aims at advocacy towards enhanced implementation of policy and  scheme, he said.

Bidyut Mohanty, Convenor of VCRO said it will work on both responsive and preventive ways, with all respective stakeholders bringing them at one platform to operate at the village levels.

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