Melghat’s Tribal Women Battling Malnutrition as Community Nutrition Workers
Melghat, a hilly forest, is a difficult-to-reach tribal area in Amravati district of Maharashtra with the population of 300,000 scattered over 320 villages. The indigenous tribes are 75% of the total population in the area. The people in this backward region face various problems including malnutrition, very high mortality rate, poor sanitation, water scarcity, and poor educational quality.
The high child mortality rate due to malnourishment has been a huge challenge in Melghat for many years. Several health programs have been implemented by the government to tackle the problem but the mortality rate does not seem to be faltering. Since poor sanitation standard is one of the contributing factors to malnutrition, the government has employed Community Nutrition Workers (CNWs), a group of young tribal women of the region, to help people and change the current scenario.
Malnutrition has been a prevalent concern for years in the region. Two decades ago, 5000 children were reported dead in Melghat owing to malnutrition. The government has been making efforts to ensure longer lifespans of the babies born here, with a healthy childhood. The scenario has improved somewhat since then, but Melghat still loses six in every hundred children to infections and other diseases caused by malnutrition.
The poor living conditions and unemployment in Melghat lead to illiteracy and unawareness. Many people go to cities for employment, leaving their families behind with no proper livelihood. Another factor that increases the chances of undernourishment in children of this area is the early marriage which results in early childbirth with underweight newborns.
To deal with this worrisome situation and eradicate it, Community Nutrition Workers (CNWs) have been employed. These young women have been given modern tablets to feed data and monitor the daily progress of malnourished children. They are picked from within the tribal community and are trained to spread awareness among the people, collect data and provide medical aid to the children suffering from malnutrition.
Community Nutrition Workers try and find the houses with malnourished children, help in their referrals to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Center and educate mothers on the importance of nutrition. These women not only make people aware about proper nutrition but promote breastfeeding as well.
This initiative and unrelenting involvement of these young women has ensured the well-being of children in this backward and underdeveloped area to some extent. Many lives of poverty-stricken, most vulnerable and malnourished children have been saved.
There are 41 CNWs in Melghat and can be recognized with their pink dresses. The involvement of these women makes the people in the area to cooperate with data collection. The locals are getting aware and seek medical attention for severely malnourished children due to the efforts of Community Nutrition Workers.
These workers are regularly being trained at the district headquarters of Amravati. The training sessions help them develop and understand the data collecting techniques and improve their skills in information education and communication activities.
The motive behind this initiative is to support and help the governments’ efforts to deal with the problem of malnutrition. The role of Community Nutrition Workers is to ensure the eradication of malnutrition in collaboration with the efforts of the government to eradicate malnutrition from Maharashtra.