We need to listen to, what the statistics of nutrition in India say. According to NFHS-4 anaemia remains a critical public health problem affecting 53% of women and 58.5% children age 6-59 months. Anaemia begins in childhood, worsens during adolescence in girls and is aggravated further during pregnancy. Hardly, 30.3% pregnant women are consuming Iron-folic acid tablets for a duration of 100 days, 41.6% children under age 3 years are breastfed within one hour of birth, only 55% children under age 6 months are exclusively breastfed and only 42.7% children age 6-8 months received solid or semi solid food and breast milk. Deaths among infants in India due to low birth weight have increased in last 15 years.
These data are clearly and loudly asking for nutrition and health awareness. Unfortunately, today the solutions offered to combat under nutrition are based on food technology and are market driven rather than locally acceptable solutions.
For example, on one side we haven’t yet succeeded in convincing women to consume 100 tablets of iron folic acid tablets during pregnancy and on the other side we have not promoted cooking in iron or cast iron vessels. Regular cooking in iron vessels will surely bring long-term sustainable change in reducing prevalence of aneamia amongst all the family members.
Based on our experience, we can say that there’s a very good acceptance in the
community for cooking food in iron vessels .Women have together gone to market, bargained the cost of iron vessels, bought and used them, once they have been counseled for the same. Let us not forget, our age old traditions of cooking in iron vessels had a strong scientific backdrop to them.
According to me, some basic steps that should be promoted in nutrition programme are:
- Nutrition education needs to be addressed to all the members of the family including men and the elderly.
- Promote healthy eating habits among adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women.
- Promote cooking in iron vessels.
- Let our ignorance not become a barrier in promoting nutritious food. A visit to “hat” will increase your knowledge of locally available nutritious food.
- Ensure that children are well fed during and after an illness. Children require food during recovery phase. Do not neglect it.
- Water is an important food group Not washing hands after defecation, cooking and before eating is common. Promote drinking clean water and personal hygiene practices.
- Initiate any nutrition programme by treating worm infestation. Worm infestation is very common among children and adult.
- Discourage consumption of packaged and processed snacks by children. Unfortunately, commercially available namkeens are replacing our good old home made foods.
- Eating habits are largely based on tradition, social and family norms, which are developed over several generations. Therefore, we should promote homemade food as complementary feeding by making it palatable and energy dense by adding ghee or oil and jaggery. There is no need to invest in introducing new recipes and products if we can succeed in reviving our traditional cooking.
- Ensure complete immunization of all kids.