Philanthropic Contribution Towards Childhood Nutrition: A Better India With Better Health
Childcare and nutrition are crucial aspects of a child's growth and development
A balanced and adequate diet is important to ensure the survival, well-being, and growth of children. Children who receive proper nourishment are likely to experience better health and learning outcomes, leading to increased productivity as adults.
While the 2022 Global Nutrition Report states India is on course to meet a few of the maternal, infant and young child nutrition targets, malnutrition remains a pressing issue. Nearly 35 per cent of children under the age of 5 are affected. This is higher than the average for the Asia region (22 per cent). Over 15 per cent of children in the same age group are affected with wasting; higher than the average for the Asia region (9 per cent) and among the highest in the world. Progress is yet to be made towards achieving target for wasting—a form of undernutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey (2019-21), over 35 per cent of children under the age of 5 are stunted, nearly 20 per cent are wasted, and over 30 per cent are underweight. The Global Hunger Index 2023 has similar observations. In 2022, reportedly, close to 70 per cent deaths in children under 5 years were due to malnutrition. Furthermore, health loss from malnutrition results in permanent physical and cognitive impairments, which detrimentally impacts school attendance and education outcomes. Subsequently, it lowers their economic productivity as adults and consequently the nation’s economic progress. Previous estimates suggest India loses nearly 4 per cent of its GDP due to malnutrition.
Hence, malnutrition presents a widespread problem, that needs urgent action; inaction leading to a costly burden on India’s health and economic development. With the potential to make a significant difference, philanthropic contributions can help in reshaping the future of childcare nutrition in India.
The Need for Collaboration to Push Focus on Childhood Nutrition
To address the issue of childcare nutrition, it is imperative for Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (UHNIs) to work with Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and government for scale and 360⁰ development.
UHNIs can take a strategic approach in their philanthropy by funding programs that focus on eradicating malnutrition, promoting breastfeeding, improving dietary diversity, and enhancing the overall nutritional status of children. Their expertise and resources can help design and execute comprehensive programs. One such example can be seen in the work of Association for Nutrition and Development Action (ANNADA). Set up by Hemal Shete, ANNADA integrates its mother and child health and nutrition programs with social and behavior change communication to alleviate malnutrition at a critical development age in young children. Their approach enables adequate physical and cognitive growth and immunity leading to healthier and safer lives, improved education and livelihood outcomes.
Given their extensive experience and grassroot reach, NPOs play an essential role in implementing nutrition programs, conducting awareness campaigns, and collaborating with local communities to ensure that children receive proper nutrition. UHNIs can support these efforts through financial contributions and expertise sharing. For instance, Rumana Hamied (Managing Trustee at Cipla Foundation and Trustee at Cipla Palliative Care & Training Centre) supports the Society for Nutrition, Education, and Health Action (SNEHA) Centre Program, which runs an integrated delivery of health interventions across the life-cycle to address health and nutrition challenges among mothers and children in low-resource communities. Under the program, community centers act as a single, community-level access point to health, nutrition and safety services for women and children. To address malnutrition, the centers screen children (0–6 years) through monthly anthropometry, referral, and follow-up of children identified as malnourished.
Several UHNIs and NPOs have already taken up the mantle of childcare nutrition in India. Initiatives such as the Annamrita and Akshaya Patra Foundations have been making a substantial difference by providing nutritious meals to underprivileged children. Their work showcases the potential for philanthropy in this sector. Implementing the government’s mid-day meal program in schools, Annamrita Foundation works with Vita Dani (Founder of Dani Foundation). Besides financial contributions, the Dani Foundation also contributes with knowledge sharing, resource building and thought leadership. Together they are working to address problems of hunger and malnutrition while pushing to increase enrolment and attendance in schools so that children are not deprived of education due to poverty.
Potential Impact of Philanthropy in Childhood Nutrition
Philanthropic contributions can bring about transformative changes in early childhood nutrition, such as:
1. Access to Nutrient-Rich Meals: Philanthropic funding can ensure that underprivileged children have access to nutrient-rich meals, reducing the prevalence of malnutrition. Initiatives such as mid-day meal programs and community kitchen schemes can be expanded to reach more children.
2. Educational Opportunities: Proper nutrition is essential for cognitive development. Philanthropy can support programs of NPOs, such as Ekta Foundation, Gram Vikas Trust, and AIM for SEVA amongst others besides Akshaya Patra and Annamrita Foundations, that provide not only food but also educational opportunities, helping children escape the cycle of poverty.
3. Awareness and Advocacy: Philanthropists can leverage their influence to raise awareness about childcare nutrition and advocate for policy changes. Credibility is essential to influence effectively. A stance that considers all perspective can help establish that credibility, which helps earn the policymakers’ and other stakeholders’ trust. This can lead to improved government programs and policies, further enhancing the impact of philanthropic efforts.
4. Sustainable Solutions: Philanthropic contributions can help develop sustainable solutions for long-term impact. These solutions may include training local communities in sustainable agriculture, creating nutrition gardens, and building infrastructure for food storage and distribution.
5. Scaling Successful Models: Successful models of childcare nutrition programs can be scaled up with the support of philanthropy, reaching a larger number of children across the country. UHNIs can play a pivotal role in identifying these models and ensuring their expansion.
Childcare nutrition in India is at a critical juncture where malnutrition calls for immediate attention. Philanthropists, with a strategic giving mindset, can significantly alter the landscape of childcare development in the country. By focusing on strategic approaches, increasing awareness, and supporting sustainable solutions, these contributions have the potential to reshape the future, creating a healthier and brighter India for its children. It's time to recognize the power of philanthropy in ensuring that no child in India goes to bed hungry or malnourished.
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