Childhood malnutrition is devastating in India and it severely affects the population’s health. Over 50% of the children under the age of 5 suffer from stunted growth (61 million children currently affected as per one estimate).
The prevalence of childhood anemia is also alarmingly high and adolescent girls often face the harshest consequences. Chronic malnutrition is particularly challenging for females due to their higher dietary needs and lower access to food at three critical life stages (pregnancy, birth to two years, and adolescence).
There are many barriers to proper nutrition for young women and children in India including economic difficulties, preferential feeding practices, little knowledge of dietary demands, lack of access to a variety of food stuffs, and continual infections.
The state of Uttarakhand, where Himalayan Naari operates, has higher rates of malnutrition than that of India as a whole.
Given these facts, over the past three years, Himalayan Education Foundation has conducted an assessment of the nutritional status of the children at Himalayan Inter College and the women at Himalayan Naari.
At Naari, we identified several members who were malnourished or at high risk. In particular, we recognized that our pregnant and nursing mothers needed nutritional support. In 2019, we began a supplemental feeding program providing a daily meal to our nursing and pregnant mothers and the women who were identified as malnourished. We have had three healthy babies born in the past year!
In the next year, we are targeting the prevalence of anemia in the Naari mothers. About 30% of our members experience mild or moderate anemia. We are hoping to start the “Himalayan Naari Anemia Fighting Garden”. The women will organize this effort as a way to provide healthy vegetables to those who are at risk.
Naari is also working in partnership with the student organization Healthy HIC. Their mission is to strengthen the health and well-being of their own community.
During this project the members of Healthy HIC develop data collection and analysis skills. Together they learn about nutrition and its importance in lifelong development, help conduct the nutritional assessments, and then develop and implement education programs at HIC for their fellow students. Through their participation in this program, these students are exposed to careers in health, nutrition, biology, medicine and research.