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Transforming lives and addressing malnutrition through good governance in Gujarat

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Manisha Chandra, IAS, Commissioner and Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Gujarat reviews her state’s initiatives to ensure last mile convergence through its programmes and the bottom up approach during the pandemic. Going forward, the state is stressing on the need to improve and the set quality standards for nutrition services

Nutrition has been a crucial component for the overall development of a country. To address nutrition challenges in the country, Government of India’s flagship programme, POSHAN Abhiyaan focuses on the life cycle approach and emphasises on the need for multisectoral convergence.

The State of Gujarat has been a front runner in the implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan. To support and augment the goals of POSHAN Abhiyaan, Gujarat has launched various state initiatives such as, PURNA (nutrition program for adolescent girls), fortified take home ration in collaboration with Amul for all the beneficiary age groups, Satva, Double Fortified salt for adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and hot cooked meals for children 3-6 years.

The state has also been very quick and efficient in adapting to new and innovative ways to combat interruptions in service delivery caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Gujarat introduced innovative, scalable, and practical ideas and ensured safe delivery of essential services during the pandemic.

An important and highly effective State led initiative, PuShTI -Innovation through technology, is an integrated supply-chain management system for procurement and supply of THR (Take Home Ration) under Supplementary Nutrition Programme. It is a web and mobile based application with multiple user-friendly features. It is easily accessible for field level functionaries, and has auto-enabled live tracking of delivery of THR.

PuSHTI brings together all stakeholders of the supply-chain on one platform and functions as a one stop solution for the stakeholders.  As a result, it has led to effective coordination between stakeholders, accountability and improved quality of services with better monitoring. PuShTI has been a time and resource efficient, easy to use tool for all the partners and stakeholders in the state, making it instrumental in changing the supply chain management scenario in Gujarat.

The Department of Women and Child Development, Gujarat has been actively working towards tackling malnutrition in the state. During COVID-19, the government came across a major challenge to continue delivery of essential services without compromising with the quality and health norms.

To ensure the health and safety of beneficiaries and service providers, ICDS, Women & Child Development Department, Gujarat, designed, developed and implemented ‘Umbre Anganwadi’ (means Anganwadi at Doorstep) programme using digital platforms and to ensure home delivery of services. Since Anganwadi Centres had shut down on March 16, 2020 due to nationwide lockdown, they had to come up with an alternative for provision of hot cooked meals. In lieu they started providing THR for children 3-6 years old in addition to the THR that they are home delivering for children. This is ensuring that 18 lakh, 6 months – 3 years, 16 lakh, 3 -6 years’ children, 7 lakh pregnant and lactating women and 13 lakh adolescent girls receive THR and their daily supplementary nutritional needs are being met even during the pandemic and lockdown.

One essential component of Umbre Anganwadi is Pre-School Education,  Nutrition and PSE related programmes are being broadcasted through BISAG (Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo informatics) on government free to air channel called Vande Gujarat -1 with repeat telecast on Doordarshan also. The episodes are further amplified on the social media platform of WCD Gujarat including Twitter and Facebook. To ensure wider reach, 40000 parents’ groups on WhatsApp are formed reaching about 3, 00,000 parents.

The Govt of Gujarat ensured last mile convergence through its programmes and adopted the bottom up approach. Going forward, the state is stressing on the need to improve and the set quality standards for nutrition services. Gujarat has been an exemplary case in handling the global pandemic and has come up with effective solutions without compromising with the quality and health norms. As the essential services continue to reach the last mile beneficiary even during pandemic, it goes to show that if there is a will, the solutions are not far away either.

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