By Shibika Suresh:
After more than 60 years of Independence from Colonial rule, India has not managed to get a grip on the problem of malnutrition among children, a fact that India’s prime minister has called a “national shame”. According to latest statistics, around 42.5 per cent of Indian children suffer from malnutrition which means that every second child is not getting enough food. More 50% of the children that die every year are due to undernourishment. It just gets worse; girls are more malnourished as inadequate resources of families are divided preferentially among men. Child under nutrition remains one of the greatest development challenges for India and remains a major threat to the survival, growth and development of Indian children.
Eyes wide shut have now suddenly popped open, with a new campaign started by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in November 2012, called ‘Kuposhan Bharat Chhodo’, or ‘Malnutrition Quit India’. The entire idea of the campaign is built around the sentiment of ‘Angrezo Bharat Chhodo’, or ‘Britishers Quit India’ in the sense that our country became independent in 1947, and even in 2013 we haven’t achieved complete independence from this hidden enemy that threatens the very foundation of our progress. This campaign is regarded as India’s biggest ever nationwide information, education and communication campaign developed by the government along with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, who is the Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF and the face of this campaign. It aims to highlight the importance of adequate nutrition for the first two years of life in order to prevent and ultimately, eradicate the problem of malnutrition.
In the first stage of the campaign, it would focus on generating awareness on the issue and raise alarm. The second stage would highlight how important the involvement of the masses is; while stage three will attempt to popularise the message throughout the country. There would also be key messages on basic critical practices for maternal and child care as prevention from malnutrition. The fourth and final stage of the campaign will evoke the need to take necessary action and also inform the public about the Mother Child Protection Card.
The real question here is whether this initiative, unlike countless others, would actually penetrate through those who actually need to be pulled out of this problem and reach the sections of the society that need to be targeted. The USP of ‘Kuposhan Bharat Chhodo’ is in the fact that it calls for the available resources to be used more sensibly. This campaign calls for simplistic methods to be implemented, like giving a pregnant woman a nutritious and balanced diet throughout the pregnancy. It also lays a lot of importance of breast-feeding the infant regularly. During the critical window of opportunity, a set of proven interventions can help prevent malnutrition. Aamir Khan has shot over 40 ad-films to make people aware of malnutrition and its related threats.
‘Kuposhan Bharat Chhodo’ aims to be a multimedia campaign, where he will educate masses about how malnutrition is a silent destroyer, and how it negatively impacts the lives of children, who are indeed the future of our country. The vision at present seems quite optimistic, given the fact that this is a campaign that will be seen and heard in over 18 languages, all across the country. The view that seeks to be propagated is that there is no need to develop any new vaccines or technology to eradicate malnutrition; it has to be nipped in the bud. Add to it the fact that a known-face like Mr. Aamir Khan, who has become the face of social change after his popular show Satyamev Jayate brought many societal evils to the forefront, is the face of the campaign; the odds do seem in our favour. For now.