National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR) and UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to create, evaluate and institutionalize a curriculum that would develop the capacities of officials from multi sectors, on the critical importance of nutrition for survival, growth and development. This is to ensure that the important facets of nutrition are integrated in the programming of relevant departments and holistic nutrition solutions are provided to prevent stunting in children.
Child stunting (too short for age)is an irreversible manifestation of chronic under nutrition, contributing to one-third of under-five deaths. Furthermore, stunting adversely affects physical growth and brain development, leading to diminished learning capacity, poor school performance, lowered economic productivity in adulthood, and increased risk of nutrition related chronic diseases later in life – such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. At the country level, this all ultimately leads to losses of at least 3% of national GDP. According to NFHS-3 (2005-06), India houses the highest number of stunted children globally.
Stunting in children, is influenced by a multitude of factors including household poverty induced food insecurity, poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding and care practices during the first two years of life, and poor access to health,safe water and sanitation services. A UNICEF 2014 report – nourishing India’s tribal children – showed that in tribal children, maternal undernutrition and household poverty are key drivers of stunting and thus recommended linking nutrition promotion with poverty alleviation programmes which is targeted to these marginalized population groups.
This MoU is timely as it is now becoming increasingly clear that nutrition-specific interventions even if delivered at scale, can reduce undernutrition by only 20% and the remaining 80% reduction must come from other sectors – such as drinking water and sanitation, health, education and social protection. It means that these sectors need to become nutrition-sensitive to know and understand how they can play a key role to tackle this problem.
NIRD &PR isan autonomous government body under the Ministries of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India.Through its national campus at Hyderabad, with linksto State Institute of Rural Development across all Indian States and approximately hundred district-level Extension Training Centres (ETC), NIRD & PR organizes various trainings on rural development for national state and block level government officials of Departments of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Agriculture, Water and Land Resources, Education, Tribal Welfare, Environment and Forest as well as Panchayati Raj institutions. It reaches large-covering sectors which can play a critical role in improving access to public services, including nutrition, in rural and tribal areas.
The Curriculum that will be developed through NIRD&PR will be competency-based, with base module, which can then be contextualized or adapted to specific allied Department and Stakeholders, as well as levels of functionaries/officials (i.e. it will address three M’s – Multi-sector, Multi-stakeholder, and Multi-level). The focus will be on practical application of concepts in their work ‘How can these trainees design, implement, monitor and evaluate their programmes in a Way that is nutrition-sensitive?’Emphasis will be on basic nutrition concepts and why nutrition matters in their program, how to develop nutrition-sensitive plans, how to monitor these plans and evaluate the impact.
The CWD&GS team will draw from multi-sector efforts in India and neighboring Asian countries (particularly Nepal and Vietnam). Appropriate rapid assessments will be conducted to evaluate the outcome of this initiative. An evidence-based and consultative process will be adopted for development of such a curricula and international and national experts across south Asia will be roped in to guide this initiative.
It will be developed and pre-tested through four selected SIRDs before it is integrated into the NIRD&PR PG diploma curriculum and rolled-out in all SIRDs across the country. Centre for Women Development and Gender Studies (CWD&GS) within NIRD & PR will convene and implement this initiative. UNICEF will provide quality technical support to assist CWD&GS.