Art of Living Projects.

1 month old baby Rupsa (picture below) was admitted to a Nutritional Rehabilitation Center with respiratory distress due to improper feeding in Kolkata. She was fed sugar and tap water as soon as she was born

malnutrition.artoflivingblog

 

2 year old Asik Laskar, who cannot sit, talk or eat on his own is severely malnourished and suffering from respiratory distress. His mother suspected “witchcraft”. What it was, was severe malnutrition along with cerebral palsy.

malnutrition.artoflivingblog

Malnutrition is an unfortunate reality in a world of abundance. While it robs some children from reaching their fullest potential, for some, it spells death.

 Despite India’s booming economy and growth in the recent decades, more than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in India. Nearly 6000 children die everyday in the country, due to malnutrition-related causes. The malnutrition figures for the country are worse than sub-Saharan Africa.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh condemned the situation, calling it a “national shame”.

This, when India runs the largest child development program in the world called ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services).  So what went wrong? What are some approaches the Government and NGOs can take to make a dent in the malnutrition figures of the country?

 

The good news is – with timely treatment, lives can be saved, damage can be limited. With education and advocacy, malnutrition can be entirely prevented.

In a vast and complex country like India, the causes of malnutrition are also varied. Most of the time, malnutrition starts in the womb. The mother is often very young, uneducated, malnourished, and does not have the required family support to experience a healthy pregnancy. The child therefore is born weak, susceptible to diseases and compounded with inappropriate childcare practices, suffers from malnutrition.

One of the major causes for malnutrition in India is gender inequality. Due to the low social status of Indian women, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. Women who suffer malnutrition are more likely to give birth to underweight babies, breastfeed for a shorter period of time and lack resources and knowledge to feed their children optimally.

Other leading factors include poverty, lack of knowledge about optimal feeding practices, superstitions and myths, seasonal migration, corruption, lack of access to health care and poor hygiene and sanitation.

What do the abysmally high child malnutrition rates mean for the individual and the country?

Deficiencies in nutrition inflict long-term damage to both individuals and society. Nutrition-deficient individuals are more likely to have infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which lead to a higher mortality rate.

It also has consequences on a macro level, such as a greater disease burden on and lower economic output for the country.  In a country where labor and human capital is considered a major asset, it does not bode well if half the population is under-nourished and only marginally productive.

Importance of optimal nutrition in the first 1000 days of life

The first 1000 days of life, starting from conception till the child turns 2, is the “window of opportunity” where good feeding practices and care can lay a strong foundation of health for the rest of the child’s life.

That means nutrition and care for the pregnant woman is as important as feeding the child after it is born.

malnutrition.artoflivingblog

 

If a child does not receive adequate and appropriate nutrition during this critical period, the adverse effects on its health is irreversible. It has long term consequences such as poor physical, cognitive and emotional development, lower performance in school, reduced earning potential, undernourished progeny as well as greater susceptibility to illnesses and infections.

Health programs were largely failing to reach infants in the first two years of their lives, when malnutrition usually sets in and causes permanent mental and physical damage. The government lacked a coherent plan to overcome the shortcomings of the child health program, which depends on village health workers who are overburdened and poorly educated, trained and paid.

Community-engaged programs to combat malnutrition

Engaging the local community to take charge of their nutritional status, in the first 1000 days of a child’s life, is immensely effective in establishing a sustainable nutrition model.

A community level grass root intervention typically involves local community leaders, trained health workers either from the community itself, NGOs, and existing government infrastructure such as Anganwadis, ASHA workers and local health care facilities.

malnutrition.artoflivingblog

Community members are trained on how to use the resources that are already at their disposal to feed themselves and their children, how to practice sanitary habits, keep their environment hygienic, importance of immunizations, at-home remedies for simple illnesses as well as connecting them to available government entitles.

 

Typically, children and pregnant women who are moderately or severely malnourished are identified by health workers. They are provided targeted intervention such as regular weighing/measuring, lactation support, provision of folic acid supplements to pregnant women, training family members on healthy and hygienic cooking practices and promoting child care practices that will keep it healthy and disease-free.

 

In the process, the social causes of malnutrition in the community are also identified and counseling and behavioral change efforts are undertaken. This includes promoting the importance of a woman’s nutrition during pregnancy, lessening her work burden and promoting institutional delivery among others.

 

This creates a sustainable model that will go a long way in breaking the cycle of multi-generational malnutrition and keeping communities healthy.

 

NGOs play a crucial role in capacity building and training of government health workers, providing technical expertise, helping bridge community resources to provide a comprehensive nutrition program, measuring success of the programs and advocating for policies that will help improve nutritional outcomes of children.

 

With the right engagement and will from all sectors of society, malnutrition can be reduced and the unnecessary suffering of millions of children can be mitigated.

 

Healthy children are crucial to building a healthy nation.

As architects of future India, children deserve attention to their overall well being. There is a popular saying ” you are what you eat”. It is a calling for all those who care to contribute towards building a better India.  Good health through proper nutrition brings harmony in a family, society and nation at large.

 

Pooja Srivatsa

President – Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF)

www.childnutritionfoundation.net

CNF is a Bay-area (California) based non-profit organization, committed to raising awareness, supporting and implementing projects to fight maternal and child malnutrition in India. We implement nutrition-intervention projects in identified at-risk communities in partnership with local health workers, government and health care resources.

Art of Living Wisdom.

It is said that it is very difficult to capture the reality or Truth in words. Words try to create an impression or understanding about the reality but that understanding is not the experience of the actual reality. Truth is very elusive.

To take an example – “Advaita Vedanta” claims that there is an all pervading energy field or ‘consciousness’ or ‘chaitanya’ which is the basis of this creation.

God Particle - Art of Living Blog

Scientists at CERN have also experimentally confirmed the existence of so called ‘God Particle’. It is supposed to be an energy field which gives mass to other particles. It is present in everything having mass. Essentially what Scientists are confirming now and what Vedanta had postulated are one and the same thing.

 The same truth is understood by different people in different ways.

 

(1) Intellectual Understanding:

A scientist’s intellectual understanding that same energy field is present throughout the universe does not in any way affect the scientist’s outlook towards life. Often, mere intellectual understanding tends to slightly inflate the ego, because the knower thinks he knows more than others.

 

(2) Experiential Understanding:

Few years back, I did my first “Art Of Living” course and started practicing Yoga, Pranayama, ‘Sudarshan Kriya’, meditation etc. After a few months of regular practice I observed that there was a perceptible difference in my attitude towards life. I was more relaxed and natural with people. There was marked reduction in anger, hatred, jealousy and other negative emotions. I became happier and more responsible person. When I look back, now I realize that this has happened because of newly developed sense of belongingness in me. Somewhere along the way, I faintly realized that I am not separate from others. I realized that I am part of this environment and people around me. Due to these practices, at some deep level of my consciousness I might have got the glimpse of the truth that same energy field is pervading throughout this universe. This is experiential understanding. Experiential understanding of the truth changes the fixed behaviour patterns, habits and the outlook towards life.

 art of living pranayama

 

I am not alone. Thousands of people practicing yoga, pranayama, ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ and mediation all over the world have experienced the same thing which I have experienced. I am convinced that, if we make these practices as a part of school and college curriculum then we can leave behind a better world order for our future generations. We can have more tolerant, more loving, more compassionate, more caring, more sharing, more responsible, more stress free, more wise and more happy future citizens of this world.

Truth Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

(3) Existential Understanding:

Look at lives of enlightened Masters (of the past and present) like Parmhansa Yogananda, Sai Baba, Sri Ram Krishna Parmahansa, H.H. Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankaji and many more. These Masters have been living this Truth from moment to moment. Unconditional love and unfathomable knowledge have been two unmistakable aspects of lives of these enlightened Masters. Unconditional love can dawn only with the realization that the whole universe is one Consciousness. Unfathomable knowledge can only come when your consciousness is one with the universal consciousness. You are totally connected with the existence. This is existential understanding of the same TRUTH.

 

Art of Living Wisdom.

According to Hindu Mythology, both Manu and Shatrupa emerged on their own from the body of Brahma . Thus, there is an Equality of Sexes. All my life, I have heard my teachers and parents teach me that “God made it a point not to create woman from the bones or the feet of Adam, or from any tissue on his head” meaning that God did not want women to be dominated by men nor did HE want women to be above men.  Instead, he created Shatrupa or Eve in equality or parallel to Manu or Adam, to be by his side and walk equally with him, side by side.

art of living bog - happy woman day

That day of the year is here again. The day when we count and recount, collect and recollect all sacrifices, efforts, patience, fortitude the women in our life have put in forming us. Is that what we are saluting? Or are we just creating an inequality ourselves, by booing and shooing the men thus creating an automatic salutation! Our celebration of womanhood in most cases, if not all, is done by comparing the successes and achievements with the opposite gender.

Me thinks this is not about ascertaining equality or inequality. Women are just special, like mother Nature.  Period! And Men, they are the best thing that could ever happen to us. If the woman is a Dream, the Man is the Power to make it come true or vice versa. Their completeness rests in their co-existence.

A very feminist friend of mine once remarked, “some of us women are becoming the men we wanted to marry!” Women, do think about this one. I am sure you will strike a chord and men, see where we are getting to? The sooner we realize and understand the essence, meaning and reasons behind our creation the better it would be. Our Future lies not in fighting for Equality, it rests in understanding and appreciating the differences and inequalities in each other.

happy woman day

And so the battle of the sexes continues, the humor continues and the inequality (in good humor)…continues too.

To all my male buddies- try to be good to her all days of your life. Happy human’s day.

To all the women in my life, who’ve loved me, held me, inspired me, dealt with me, nurtured me, pampered me, coaxed me and criticized me, encouraged me and driven me, all those who’ve prayed for me and stood by me, to all those women– Happy woman’s day!!!

Btw  the International Men’s day is celebrated on the 19 Nov. Thank your stars, men are bad with dates and days!  :-)