Mathrupoorna to provide for freshly cooked meal to pregnant and lactating mothers in Bengaluru

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BENGALURU,Sept27: A maternal nutrition scheme, ‘Mathrupoorna’, which will provide one freshly cooked meal to pregnant and lactating mothers, will be launched on October 2. The scheme will replace the take-home meals that were being offered as part of the supplementary nutrition programme under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

Under this programme, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers will be given one full meal during the day consisting of rice, dal, lentils, vegetables, boiled egg, peanut (chikki) and milk for a minimum of 25 days every month. The women will also be given iron, folic acid and calcium tablets along with the meal. The one meal will be of 1,342 calories and will meet up to 45 per cent of the recommended daily nutritional need. The meal will be served at local anganwadis. Similar schemes are already being implemented in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

A pilot project was conducted in February at Manvi, H D Kote, Jamkhandi and Madhugiri taluks, where 36,000 women were covered under the scheme. The scheme is expected to benefit 12 lakh women in the state. Since the meals will be cooked at anganwadis, the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) has decided that meals served to children (3-6 years) will also be the same so that meals do not have to cooked twice.

Keeping in mind the restrictions placed on new mothers, meals will be allowed to be taken home 30 days before delivery and 45 days after. In coastal areas like Uttara Kannada and Udupi, where anganwadis are far away, DWCD is considering allowing women to take the meals home.

Principal Secretary to DWCD Uma Mahadevan said surveys held in the past decade had shown that malnutrition, stunted growth and wasting has not reduced much in children who do not have access to better facilities. “We realised that to address the issue, it is not sufficient to focus on the child alone, but also on the mother.  Most of the women are anaemic and calcium deficient before pregnancy and this contributes to poor health of the child and in the long term, poorer prospects of leading a better life,” she said.

While the DWCD will focus on providing the meal, the Health and Family Welfare Department, through ASHA workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, will record their development through mother and child tracking software, check haemoglobin content and also counsel on birth preparedness.

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Several issues to cover

The successful implementation of the scheme which follows a life-cycle approach, with focus on the mother and the child too stands a better chance, depending on how DWCD manages several problems. There is some resistance among anganwadi workers who feel they are not able to concentrate on their core function as they are being frequently drawn into other works like surveys and census. While stress is also being laied on construction of toilets to prevent diarrhoea and other infections, encouraging women and children to use the toilets when water is a scarce commodity in north Karnataka is also a challenge. In addition, the DWCD also has been unable to tackle child marriages satisfactorily, despite conducting awareness campaigns.  Also, younger anaemic mothers have a higher rate of maternal mortality and also give birth to underweight children. Whether families are willing to let these young mothers have access to these meals is yet to be seen.