Therapeutic food makers extend support to check malnutrition during Covid times
Therapeutic food makers in the country have asked for launching specific programs at the community level to tackle the problem of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the children since Covid-induced lockdowns and migration of workers are feared to have led to drop in the nutrition levels in the vulnerable sections of society.
CMAM Association of India, comprising manufacturers of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) which are globally used in community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM), has extended support to the Government to develop new products so as to eradicate SAM under the Poshan Abhiyan.
In a communication to the Ministry of Women & Child Development, CMAM Association of India has offered to support and implement any suitable feeding protocols to be laid down by the Government of India. Banking on their globally-renowned R&D and product development prowess, CMAM Association members would wish to ensure that the children receive adequate nutrition.
Feeding protocols that use a combination of home-based food and high-quality energy dense nutrition supplements which arefortified with all micronutrients and are easy to transport to villages and administer to children need to be urgently explored, CMAM Association has stated.
“SAM is a critical health condition where a child is 9 times more likely to die as compared to a healthy child. The recently published results of phase I of the National Family Health Survey-5 bring to the fore the urgency of the problem of SAM. As many as 16 out of the 22 states and union territories that were surveyed, showed an increase in the incidence of SAM over the last 10 years. In about 8 states, the incidence of SAM is higher in urban areas than in rural areas”, states CMAM Association.
“With the increase in incidence of SAM, more children are at risk and need to be managed urgently. Covid-19 is likely to have further worsened the nutrition levels in the country and brought even more children at risk”, said Akshat Khandelwal, President CMAM Association of India.Pandemic induced lockdowns had reportedly affected the delivery of Mid-day meals in schools, take home rations and hot cooked meals in anganwadi centres in various parts of the country last year in view of disruptions in the supply chain and need for social distancing. UNICEF has claimed that the second wave of Covid-19 could impact child nutrition in India as health facilities continue to be overwhelmed and the delivery of critical services are getting disrupted in various parts of the country.
“CMAM Association appreciates the government’s sharpened focus on nutrition, and SAM in particular. The association is poised to align itself with various nutrition interventions through development of products as prescribed by the government and extending the PM’s vision of a self-reliant India in eradicating malnutrition. With a manufacturing capacity of more than 20,000 MT of RUTF annually, the members of the association can adequately meet the domestic RUTF and other therapeutic food requirements. . Currently CMAM Association members are manufacturing products which meet exacting WHO and UNICEF standards and are exporting these products for use in other parts of the world”, added Akshat Khandelwal.
According to the Association, RUTF comprises energy dense foods which are specifically tailored for children suffering from SAM and are not meant to be a substitute for breastfeeding or home cooked food as is generally believed.
Since RUTF can ensure the recovery of a SAM child in 2-3 months at the community level in most of the cases and reduce the need for treatment at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs), it reduces the chances of infections and the overall cost of treatment. Understandably, several Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres across the country are either shut down or turned into Covid quarantine facilities resulting in lower referral of children to these centres.
According to CMAM Association, reports released by different agencies including NITI Aayog and UNICEF have pointed to the need for strengthening Community based treatment of SAM.
“The current interventions from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), to ensure in-facility care for SAM children, are currently reaching around 20% of those who are estimated to need such care. Even as these need expansion, what is imperative is stronger linkages with community-based programs to reach the large majority of wasted children before they require in-patient facility care”, stated a report by the NITI Aayog titled “Accelerating Progress on Nutrition in India’.
If acute malnutrition is identified in the early stages, the treatment can be provided at the community level itself and medical complications in the children with SAM can be averted, argues a report by UNICEF titled “Community based programme for children below 5 years of age with severe acute malnutrition in India 2020- Progress so far and lessons learned”
Disclaimer: This is a company press release. No HT journalist is involved in creation of this content.