Close to 47 per cent tribal women suffer from chronic energy deficiency and 68 per cent tribal women are anaemic. Undernourished mothers give birth to undernourished babies.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, 5100 women federations, supported by Aajeevika and UNICEF, partner with State Governments to provide 895,000 pregnant and lactating mothers nutritious meals daily through 'ONE FULL MEAL' scheme.
Twenty two-year- old, Sumitra Devi is happy that her health and weight has improved substantially in last few months. Sumitra has been availing the One Full Meal Scheme in her village in Paderu block in Vishakhapatnam in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh since last June.
Sumitra was registered at the village’s aanganwadi as soon as she got pregnant and was later sent to a hospital for institutional delivery. “Earlier we only used to eat rice and tamarind soup. But the one full meal scheme at the aganwadi has improved my health. I also get monthly check-ups,” says Sumitra.
“These pregnant women and lactating mothers need a wholesome diet to keep themselves and their babies healthy. Earlier, we had the take-home ration scheme in which each beneficiary was given a fixed amount of food to take home at the Aanganwadi Centre. But it failed as the women would usually distribute all the food to the family,” Lalitha Kumari, who works with the Mother and Child Welfare Department.
“Now, the nutrition reaches the beneficiaries directly as they are fed at the centre itself,” she adds.
One Full Meal entitles pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to receive a free nutritious meal every day at the village anganwadi centre. The hot-cooked meal - prepared daily by the anganwadi helper - contains 125 grams of cereal, 30 grams of pulses, 50 grams of green leafy vegetables, 50 grams of egg and 200 ml of milk, and provides 1052 kilocalories, 33 grams of protein, and about 500 mg of calcium.
After the meal, the women who participate in the programme receive on-the-spot iron and folic acid supplements for the control of iron deficiency and anemia. They are counseled by the anganwadi worker on how to improve their dietary intake and nutrition, and are encouraged to use the services provided at the monthly Village Health and Nutrition Day.
The anganwadi worker keeps a record of the women who are enrolled in the programme. This includes the services they receive, the monthly weight gain during pregnancy and the weight of their children at the time of their birth.
In each anganwadi centre, a five-member committee is constituted to supervise the implementation of the programme. The committee - chaired by a representative of the local self-help group federation - includes another federation representative, one pregnant woman, one breastfeeding mother and the anganwadi worker.
“I used to fall ill very often before the start of this scheme. My children were weak too. Thankfully, things have changed. I get served a hot cooked meal everyday at the Anganwadi Centre... ...along with provisions like dal,vegetables, milk and eggs. I am also given iron-folic tablets and my growth is monitored daily, “says Janni Susheela, a mother living in Paderu block.
“At the centre, they take a detailed check up of my health. They give me iron tablets and also monitor the growth of my baby I am given vaccination too,” adds Susheela.
Women federations under Aaajevika receive quarterly grants from ICDS for the implementation of this programme. The Full Meal Scheme is implemented in about 59542 aanganwadi centres benefitting 895,000 pregnant and lactating mothers and in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state. The One Full Meal programme has now been expanded to all tribal blocks of telengana to give mothers a healthier and happier pregnancy
"The condiments, the vegetables, eggs, milk... all these provisions will be procured by village organisations. So the aanganwadi workers with the assistance of VOs (village organizations – women federations under Aaajevika) are implementing this programme particularly to the pregnant and lactating mothers,” says AE Roberts, Project Director, District Women and Child Development Agency, Vishakhapatnam
Mainly the concentration is to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate and maternal anaemia levels to improve the nutrition levels in pregnant and lactating mothers. Previously the anaemia levels were 49% in pregnant and lactating mothers. Now it has been reduced to 37% which is a very encouraging figure”, he adds.
“I have seen many deaths happening in this village. But after the scheme arrived, there has been a total turnaround,” says a village elder.
For the Tribal Women in Andhra and Telangana, the scheme spells out an era of hope and confidence. One hopes the benefits of the scheme are scaled to other states as well.
Watch the One Full Meal Video here: http://unicf.in/1BDMHKl