A Grain Bank, a Nutrition Garden: How Communities in India Fought Against Malnutrition in the Pandemic

by Anjali Ojha 1 year ago Views 1247


The lockdown enforced due to the Coronavirus Pandemic in India led to a food and nutrition crisis as well. But in a small village in Maharashtra, a unique grain bank proved helpful to locals. According to a compilation of case studies published by UNICEF, in Adgaon village, food shortage was mitigated with the help of a grain bank run by women supported by the Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM), the Women Development Corporation of Maharashtra

In the grain bank, the participating members- a minimum group of 30- deposit some amount of grain grown in their field. The deposited grain is stored and then taken or “borrowed” by the members of the group as a loan. The interest rate on the loan is in the ratio of 4:2, which means 2 kg interest for a 4 kg pick. The interest rate is applied and repayment is done on a seasonal basis.

During the lockdown, the interest was reduced to 4:1, and services were made available to non-members as well at a nominal rate.

Meanwhile, in Bihar, a programme to support nutritional needs of families through a 'Poshan Vatika' or nutrition garden, came in handy.
Asha Bharti, mother of three in Khagaria of Bihar, managed through the lockdown with the help of her kitchen garden. Her husband is a casual labourer.
“In early February when I sowed, I had no clue, how valuable this will be. Now my small Nutri Garden (Poshan Vatika) has Sponge Gourd, Ridged Gourd, Bottle Gourd, Cucumber and String beans," she said.

Around 4,443 targeted families have been supported by World Vision India in Khagaria, Saharsa, Madhepura and Nawada projects in Bihar under this programme.
The paper also includes case studies from other states, on how nutrition programmes were followed up during the lockdown.
In the state of Chhattisgarh, functioning of all 89 Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) present across the state was shut when the lockdown started. The NRCs had to discharge children with severe acute malnutrition. Few of the centres were converted into COVID-19 wards and quarantine facilities.

The State Centre of Excellence on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SCoE-SAM) based in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Raipur, designed a Telephonic Follow-up Proforma for NRC to conduct regular follow-up of the children discharged from NRC.

June 7, around 1,315 children were followed up, out of which 472 (35.8%) children showed improvement in the form of weight gain while 139 (10.5%) children showed weight loss.
Another case study shows how not shutting NRC in a district where COVID-19 infections were not present helped.

In Jharkhand, there are 96 Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres, also called as Malnutrition Treatment Centres (MTCs) with a capacity to manage 2,210 children every month.
Initial rapid assessment supported by UNICEF in Jharkhand revealed that 63% NRCs were shut down and number of admissions in March 2020 reduced to only 13, in a state which has around 0.26 million severe acute malnourished children at any given point of time.

"West Singhbhum, a tribal dominated district with very high SAM prevalence (13%) hasn’t reported any COVID-19 positive case so far. In May 2020, 6- month- old Durgeshwari could receive treatment at NRC, Chaibasa, West Singhbhum, along with her grandmother Sushila only because this NRC facility was functional even during COVID-19”, the report states.

Efforts were made to get as many centres active, and as a result, the number of functional NRCs has increased significantly from only 37% on April 15, 2020 to 95% as on May 31, 2020.

UNICEF India Representative Yasmin Ali Haque, in an article written along with World Food Programme Representative in India, Bishow Parajuli, Acting WHO Representative at the WHO Country Office for India, Payden, and Representative, Food and Agriculture Organization for India, Tomio Shichiri, had suggested a slew of measures to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on India's nutrition programmes.

These include: maximising maternal, infant and young child nutrition actions; protecting functioning food supply chains and strengthening food security; managing cases of acute malnutrition by modifying present models and considering fortification of grains like wheat and rice given under the public distribution system and strengthening school nutrition and establishing nutrition surveillance.

A Lancet article on the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income and middle-income countries estimated that an increase in wasting prevalence would account for 18–23 per cent of additional child deaths.
There are still around 20 million children under five years of age who are suffering from wasting, over 40 million children are chronically malnourished , and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.

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