In 2015, more than 2 children (below 5 years) died every minute in India (UNICEF). As per the WHO, 45% of the under-5 child deaths occur during the neonatal period (first 28 days after birth). More than 50 percent of the under-5 child deaths can be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions. Studies reveal that infant mortality rate (IMR) among Scheduled Tribes (STs) is higher by around 25-30% than others (Census 2011). In addition to issues related to public service delivery system and the related policies, lack of knowledge about best healthcare practices has been a major issue affecting tribal health. (Source: Xaxa committee report 2014)
Why First 1000 Days?
- The first 1000 days of a child’s life (the period from conception of pregnancy to the child’s 2nd birthday) not only impacts child survival but also physical & cognitive development for their entire life. It also affects the child’s educational ability and life-time economic productivity, forcing them into a vicious cycle of ill-health and poverty.
- Inadequate growth in height with age (stunting; a form of malnutrition) beyond 2 years of age is irreversible. (UNICEF)
- Adoption of a few key practices (colostrum feeding, early and exclusive breastfeeding, immunization etc.) can significantly reduce child deaths & malnutrition (UNICEF/LANCET).
- Lack of effective ways of knowledge dissemination is a major contributor as to why these practices are not followed. Poor literacy levels of ASHAs, lack of monitoring & evaluation of practices followed at community level etc. signify the need for innovative approaches in last mile delivery.
Leading scientists, economists and health experts agree that improving nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window is one of the best investments we can make (2012 Copehagen Consensus).
Why are we doing what we are doing?
While working as PMRDFs (Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows) in remote, uncharted, most underdeveloped regions of our country, each of us had deeply disturbing experiences.