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MUMBAI : To comprehensively tackle India’s persistent nutrition challenge, last March the government launched an ambitious programme. The Poshan Abhiyaan envisages elimination of malnutrition by 2020 and seeks to align several existing nutrition schemes that aim to improve, directly or indirectly, the nutritional status of pregnant women, mothers and children.

In theory, this “convergence" of schemes sounds promising but in practice, Poshan Abhiyaan may not be succeeding in bringing different schemes together to tackle malnutrition, suggests a new study. In the study, published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Purnima Menon and others argue that there is little on-the-ground operational guidance for the Poshan Abhiyaan to ensure that multiple programmes effectively reach the same mother-child duo within the period of the first 1,000 days of a child’s birth—the critical period for nutrition for both child and mother.

The authors calculate that across schemes, there are 19 nutrition-related interventions that target mother and child. These include access to clean drinking water, possession of a ration card and institutional delivery. Using data from a survey of 1,417 households in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, the authors then check if mother-child duos are actually receiving these interventions. They find that while some interventions have reached as many as 75% of households, only two households received all 19 interventions. According to the authors, a multisectoral approach to nutrition, like the one promoted by the Poshan Abhiyaan, has worked in other countries in addressing malnutrition. However, for the Poshan Abhiyaan to succeed in effectively delivering multiple nutrition interventions, there needs to be a greater focus on outcome-based success metrics.

Also read: Rethinking Effective Nutrition Convergence: An Analysis of Intervention Co-coverage Data

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