Happy children are a direct reflection of how prosperous a country is, and in India, the picture has been bleak.
Undernutrition in the first three years of life has both immediate and long-term consequences. Once a child is deprived of essential nutrition during his/her formative years, catching up and bridging the persistent dietary gap is difficult.
Amongst the many problems that the state of Chattisgarh faces, malnutrition and the havoc it wreaks on the population of children is a significant concern.
An NGO is tackling hunger right at the source, by providing three meals a day to children under three, together with daycare.
The Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) has been running creches or phulwaris since 2009, where children under the age of three can stay for 8 hours. Children get a diet of khichdi (a salty porridge made of rice and lentils), sattu (a mix of cereal-pulse-oilseed), iron supplements, and eggs twice a week. Also, they are taught to maintain hygiene.
Bilaspur alone has 91 creches for 38 villages serving 1,200 children. Dr Yogesh Jain, public health physician, and the founder-member of JSS said to the Times of India, “Treating sick children was only a short-term solution. We had to prevent malnourishment.”
The JSS is trying to prevent chronic hunger, seen in poor families where a child is usually breastfed at the beginning of the day, and left behind at home with the day’s leftovers, sometimes even tied by a rope to a cot, till the parents come home at night. Deprived of adequate food and attention, such children are underweight, ill and in constant discomfort.
Breaking the vicious cycle of disease and poor health amongst children, requires eradicating hunger, something that the JSS is tackling head-on.