Vedanta CSR forms "Village Empowerment Committees" to combat malnutrition in India

One in every three malnourished child in the world lives in India. Isn't it alarming? Malnutrition limits development and the capacity to learn in children. It also costs lives: about 50 per cent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition. In India, around 46 per cent of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, and 47 per cent are underweight. Most of these children are severely malnourished.

The Anganwadi Project was started by the Government of India in 1975 with an aim to provide nutrition value to young children, and since then there has been an active participation by State Governments for strengthening and trying to make Anganwadi project successful. A time came when big corporates too started showing interest in joining this mission to eradicate malnutrition from India.

In 2007, Vedanta group companies joined hands with State Governments of Rajasthan and Orissa and now also with Chattisgarh to support Anganwadi Project. With a mission to provide nutrition value to under privileged children in the age group of 0-6 years, Vedanta group company, Hindustan Zinc, adopted 400 Anganwadi Centres in Rajasthan and Vedanta Aluminium adopted 400 in Orissa. With this adoption not only the nutrient supplements were corrected but Anganwadi Centres also received new utensils, water filters, medical kit, books, toys, and other necessary items, much to the needs of these centres. These Vedanta Anganwadi Centers now maintain data of each child, including the change in their height and weight.

Encouraged by the results Vedanta adopted another 600 Anganwadi in Rajasthan and another 600 in Orissa, enhancing the total number of Anganwadi adopted to 2,000, benefiting over 85,000 under privileged children living in deep rural areas.

Fascination is what catches the attention of these very young children. The teaching methodology is entirely through play way methods where the teacher teaches them through songs and rhymes, colourful pictorial books and toys. The parents of the children are also very happy as their children are being taught about health and hygiene, civic sense and their children from the Anganwadi Centers then move to formal schools.

In order to impress upon the sustainability, strengthening and monitoring system of Anganwadi Centres (Child Care Centres) adopted by Vedanta, the Company has decided to form "Village Empowerment Committees" in every village. At present 2,000 'Vedanta Bal Chetna Anganwadi Centres' are present in Rajasthan and Orissa. The Company has already formed 1578 'Village Empowerment Committees', 1000 in Orissa and 578 in Rajasthan, which have also started functioning.

There are in total 10 members in each committee, which include panchayat leaders, youth leaders, opinion makers, self-help-group members, integrated child development project field staff, elderly people, and also a representation from Vedanta Foundation. These committee members would meet once in a month and take stalk of situation. These Committees would also convince mothers to send their child regularly to the Anganwadi Centres, monitor the quality of nutrient being given to children, stock of the food grains, ensure children being given micronutrient syrup, maintenance of record of every child, and liaison with local administration for immunization program.

Vedanta group has the target to eradicate malnutrition in at least 500,000 under-privileged children through adoption of 10,000 Anganwadi Centres in the coming 2-3 years. At present, all these Anganwadi Centres operate under the umbrella of "Vedanta Bal Chetna Anganwadi Centres".

In Chattisgarh, Vedanta group company BALCO runs 537 'MAMTA' centres in 500 villages, primarily for the mother and child care. These centres take care of all aspects of mother and child care, right from educating them about social taboos to health and medical benefits. The consistent efforts has brought down Infant Mortality Rate from 85 to 42 per 1000 and Mother Mortality Rate from 115 to 60 per 1000, in the region.

Malnutrition in early childhood has serious, long-term consequences. Malnourished children are less likely to perform well in school and more likely to grow into malnourished adults, at greater risk of disease and early death.

Unicef report also says, in 2007, an estimated 9.2 million children worldwide under the age of five died from largely preventable causes. Some are directly caused by illness such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. Others are caused by indirect causes including conflict and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition, poor hygiene and lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation contribute to more than half of these deaths. Two thirds of both neonatal and young child deaths — over 6 million deaths every year — are preventable. Half a million women die in pregnancy each year, most during delivery or in the first few days thereafter.

Mr. Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Group says, "I want to see India as a child malnutrition free country. The Vedanta group is working towards complete eradication of malnutrition from this country. A very high percentage of Children in India are under-nourished and suffer due to malnutrition and children are under-weight.

Children are wealth of any nation and also future of Indian growth story. We need to ensure their childhood is healthy and well nourished and they get proper education."

In Vedanta Bal Chetna Anganwadi Centres, the children greet every visitor with ‘good morning’, have every day bath, brush their teeth, cut their nails, comb their hair, and wear clean clothes. One can feel the inner happiness in these children.

Vedanta has developed a successful model for combating malnutrition in India. All it needs now is to be replicated by other corporate.