I was introduced as the Nutrition Expert (you make up your own job titles here!) but that was where my comprehension ended - the session was conducted entirely in Hindi. The meeting stimulated hearty debate, especially when the NGO’s were asked what they thought the cause of local malnutrition could be. Much to my surprise, the answer was not access to food, as I understand it to be in Africa. Here the answer lies in a complex web of issues including annual migration for work, a lack of dietary education, drought, failing crops and mothers working long hours in the fields. There is clearly no simple answer and much more to understand about the region.
Lunch was provided for all the delegates, and for me this was the beginning of an adventure called “I don’t know what I am eating” more of which in further posts. Whatever it was – some curried squash, a dal, rice, roti, papads and another curry – it was a delicious meal, home cooked by the a local worker and eaten with our hands off the thali it was served on.
The long, hot afternoon was spent in the Jeep dashing about the arid countryside of Jhabhua District seeing Nutrition Centres and meeting tribal villagers to check for signs of malnutrition amongst the children. The roads were narrow with thundering brightly decorated lorries, people carriers (jeeps with as many people crammed in and clinging to the outside as possible), pot holes and people walking for miles barefoot to who knows where.
Visiting the villages, it was an eye opening experience to see how wide scale malnutrition actually is, and how much help the state needs to address it. The Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC’s) we visited - many aided by Unicef –administered emergency care to just a handful of children. Compared to the number of kids we saw in need of nutrients, the centres should have been much busier. But as we discovered throughout the trip, life here is not that simple.
For me, this project strikes a real chord. Education about food and nutrition is a subject very close to my heart, and is why I am here in India - to learn. It was baffling to see so many parents who didn’t understand that their own flesh and blood were in serious need of nutrition. Living here, having this Indian adventure, it’s too easy to be caught up in my own issues. But, thanks to Cait my eyes are now open wider to the issues being faced in this beautiful country full of contrast. But awareness is only the beginning...
For donations to this cause, and other work by the RMF – click here. To follow the projects progress read Cait's Blog