Photo exhibition highlights Odisha’s leadership on nutrition and need to close the gap for marginalised

Bhubaneswar: At a time when Naveen Patnaik’s government in Odisha has been lauded for its efforts and commitment to fighting under-nutrition, a photo exhibition on the issue was held at Bhubaneswar to celebrate the efforts of the state and highlight the solutions to some nutrition-related challenges.

Chief Guest Shri Mahesh Sahoo, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, Dhenkanal inaugurated this photo exhibition. Among others Shri Amar Patnaik, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Smt. Sulata Deo, Advisor, Women & Child Development and Mission Shakti, Government of Odisha, Dr. Sipra Mallick, Member, Odisha State Food Commission, Government of Odisha, Shri Kuna Tripathy, Chairman, Odisha Film Development Corporation and Shri Bidyut Mohanty, Secretary, SPREAD were also present during launching of this exhibition. Shri Sandip Mishra, Senior Journalist of Odisha moderated this event.

Shri Mahesh Sahoo, Member of Parliament, Dhenkanal, who has been championing the cause of nutrition in Angul said that the political leadership in the state is also coming together to highlight the issue of under-nutrition. “I have raised the need for more Anganwadi Centres in inaccessible areas with the district administration. He further added “I plan to do the same with the state administration as Anganwadi Centres are the nodal centres for provision of nutrition related schemes and all of us need to ensure that they function well.”

Odisha has been celebrated as the nutrition champion in the country and through the photo exhibition, the organisers wanted to give recommendations on how the state needs to do a little more to become the role model and leader in the country when it comes to nutrition.

Aptly titled “Close the Gap: A photo essay on Angul’s fight against under-nutrition,” the photo exhibition portrayed the experiences of communities in the Angul district of Odisha through the lens of Delhi-based award winning photographers – Anindito Mukherjee and Ravi Choudhary.

Four organisations including IPE Global, APAA (Angul Pusti Adhikar Abhiyan), SPREAD (Society for Promoting Rural Education and Development) and mycitylinks got together to host this unique event.

The photos narrated everyday struggles and hopeful stories of people in accessing nutrition services from Anganwadi Centres. The message that, “Prevalence of under-nutrition is a sign of inequality in society and this gap will only increase if solutions are not focused on the people that are most marginalized,” was highlighted through the exhibition.

“We are hopeful that the exhibition will bring visibility to the gaps as well as potential solutions, through the lens of communities we want to benefit. We believe that Odisha has the potential to be a model for other states in closing the gap on under-nutrition amongst the poorest and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) communities,” said Neha Saigal, Associate Director at IPE Global Limited.

While Odisha is celebrated as a state which is taking positive steps on the issue of under-nutrition, but challenges still exist among poorer communities like Scheduled Tribes and especially the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGS).

There is scope for improvement as 34.1% of the children under 5 years of age are stunted in the state and more than 50% women in the age of 15-49 are anaemic. The stunting levels are much higher for ST children at 46% in the state, making it an area that requires urgent attention by the government.

Some of the recommendations to the policymakers in the state that were highlighted through the photo exhibition include:

Improving the last mile delivery of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) by activating the Jaanch and Matru monitoring committees at the village level.
Institutionalizing community monitoring tools like social audits, mandated under the National Food Security Act.
The government should look at a functioning grievance redressal mechanism within the ICDS.
Budgetary provision for mini-AWCs in tribal hamlets that don’t have an AWC.
Undertaking an information campaign that encourages the intended beneficiaries to consume the nutritious food provided under SNP (Supplementary Nutrition Programme), this is especially relevant in the case of eggs.

Bidyut Mohanty, Secretary, SPREAD said that community monitoring of AWC services is a very important tool and one that is unique to Odisha in case of nutrition-related schemes. “We are hoping the government will pay heed to our recommendations and mandate social audits, training of monitoring committee members of Jaanch and Matru committees. This will further strengthen the last mile delivery of services to the neediest populations,” he said.

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