The American lawyer and politician Mike Espy, once voiced out, “For many adults and children, going to sleep hungry is not a threat; it’s a regular occurrence. And it must end.”
According to one of the reports published by FAO in 2020, 189.2 million people are undernourished in India. This translates to 14 percent of the population. While 51.4 percent of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years are anaemic, 34.7 percent of children aged under five are stunted and 20 percent suffer from wasting. In the Global Hunger Index 2020, India ranked 94 among 107 nations and is in the ''serious'' hunger category.
The state of Rajasthan too paints a gloomy picture. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) report states that Rajasthan has 40.9 percent children (below 5 years) who are underweight and 44.4 percent who are anaemic.
The lack of wholesome nutrition not only leads to a higher risk of catching infections and diseases, but also has a negative effect on the overall immunity and incapacitates the body from fighting the ailment. This is all the more concerning during the present COVID-19 surge.
With a view to tackle this, the District Collector of Nagaur, Dr Jitendra Kumar Soni launched a campaign called ‘Ladesar’ on May 27, 2021. The initiative included the organisation of a door-to-door survey in Nagaur, a city located in central Rajasthan, to check the health of children and adolescents in the age group of 0 to 14 and also distribute nutritional kits to the underfed ones.
In order to implement this, the DC issued an order in the name of the Child Development Project Officers, Block Chief Medical Officers and disseminated guidelines to the Reproductive & Child Health Officers belonging to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the Medical and Health Department as well as the the Education Department.
Implementing it on ground
While the survey as part of the Ladesar campaign was conducted by the Panchayat Elementary Education Officer’s team, anganwadi workers including Asha Sahyoginis, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), Booth level officers and other local school teachers were also involved. The campaign went on in 500 gram panchayats across Naguar.
The Child Development Project Officer, Durga Singh, who also doubled up as the Nodal Officer for Ladesar Abhiyan, notified the further details.
“We formed a team in each of the 2,866 anganwadis. This number came up to almost 8,000 individuals. We then trained all of them on how to identify malnutritioned children using body measurements as shown on the ICDS tape as well as height, weight, haemoglobin assessments and other symptoms like pale eyes and nails. On completion, they went from door to door with their medical devices to administer the tests,” says Singh.
Owing to the pandemic, the training was undertaken virtually on Cisco Webex meetings with the help of the Department of Information Technology and Communication, Government of Rajasthan.
After the completion of the survey, the children and adolescents who were affected with anemia were given medicine kits with iron, folic acid and vitamin C tablets. In addition to that, as recommended by doctors, a nutrition kit also known as the ‘Ladesar Potion Kit’ with food items were distributed to them at the anganwadi level. The kit consisted of four types of mixed pulses, rice, soybean oil, ghee and jaggery sufficient for an entire month.
In case, any of the malnourished ones needed medical help or treatment, anganwadi workers and auxiliary nurse midwives were given the responsibility to direct them to the nearest government healthcare center which has a Malnutrition Treatment Center (MTC).
Safeguarding the health and future of the young
The Ladesar campaign kicked off on 27 May and was completed by 21 June, 2021. The outbreak of coronavirus has been claiming both lives and livelihoods in India. Health systems are under a strain, education is being disrupted among many children and families striving hard to stay afloat.
The District Collector, Dr Jitendra Kumar Soni took this initiative in Naguar so that one children and teenagers who are one of the most vulnerable populations in the community stay hale and hearty.
“As part of the Ladesar campaign, we were able to reach out to more than 10 lakh kids. At the end of the survey, we identified 144 children who were severely malnutritioned, 4,010 who were mildly malnutritioned and 2,049 who were suffering from anemia. We have distributed appropriate nutritional and medical kits to all of them to improve their physical condition,” says the IAS officer.
However, the campaign has not reached an end point yet. Presently, the PEEO’s team is following up with the children and their families to ensure the kits are not being misused. So far, out of the 4,010 children who were underfed, 687 of them have been fed and 53 of them have become normal.
Between Aug and Sept, another round of monitoring has been scheduled.
Children’s health has a central place in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 3 says, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” This crusade is in line with just that.
Some resources and links to help you learn more the Ladesar campaign: