In 2013, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that close to 1.3 million children in India die every year because of inadequate nutrition, or rather malnutrition. The UNICEF estimates this year that around 48 per cent of children in India below the age of five are “chronically undernourished.” Now, these are critical statistics in the field of maternal and child healthcare that one cannot ignore.
In its attempts to slash down on the challenge of widespread malnutrition affecting India’s pregnant women, mothers and newborn children, the government today launched a digital education programme through which informative awareness videos could be made available in rural areas and tribal areas. The programme, that was started today by Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, is in partnership with Indian Academy of Paediatrics, HealthPhone, UNICEF and Vodafone India.
“I am very, very happy that we have started this venture today. This programme excited me a lot and I wanted the target group to be the women in villages,” said Mrs Gandhi at the launch in New Delhi.
The aim of the programme, experts behind the venture say, is to make women more aware about the qualities of breastfeeding, care of children under the age of 2 and more importantly to ensure that children are given a balanced and healthy nutritious diet.
Through the initiative, four videos jointly produced by UNICEF and Govt of India in 18 different languages describing the significance of nutrition will be made available to women in rural areas through cell phones which subscribe to Vodafone. Viewing/downloading of videos from the WAP page will not attract any cost. In fact, to encourage the viewing of the videos, Vodafone has said that those who download all four videos will get a talk-time of Rs 10.
The videos, which feature popular Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, also show the government’s attempts to exploit the increasing mobile penetration in India. The country is said to have a mobile subscriber base of more than 900 million out of a population of 1.2 billion.
The minister also emphasised on the strength of more than 24 lakh anganwadis across the country to take the message of nutrition across.
“Anganwadi is a good route to showing these videos. They have significant clout and credibility in a village,” she said.
The Minister added that she would invite other telecom companies to come onboard to participate in the programme.
Programme coordinators say that over 6 million girls and women, between the ages of 13 and 35 years will be educated about better health and nutrition practices by 2018.