One fifth of the 16,000 annual maternal deaths in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, are attributed to anaemia. Recognising the need for bringing maternal nutrition to the centre of policy dialogue, the state government, with support from UNICEF, established a State Nutrition Mission to advocate, accelerate and coordinate actions of key departments, with a focus on improving nutrition
The Mission replaced traditional immunization sessions with “village health nutrition days,” that coordinated the delivery of monthly primary health care and essential nutrition services to women and children. The programme components included: revamping monitoring systems; capacity enhancement of frontline functionaries; ensuring timely delivery and availability of supplies; and developing spot nutritious feeding programmes with Iron folic acid supplementation, targeting 1 million pregnant women and 1.4 million young children.
Within 14 months of its operationalisation, the Mission secured high-level political commitment and galvanised state, district and block leadership to plan, monitor, report and review delivery of maternal and child nutrition services. Targets on reducing undernutrition are now included in the state government’s development agenda. Almost 200,000 frontline functionaries have been trained on the comprehensive nutrition programme, and 60% of community sessions are meeting quality expectations for essential nutrition services.
The Mission approach is emerging as a key strategy for bringing political commitment and robust attention to nutrition in the state, with the ultimate aim to attain 10 percent point annual reduction in anaemia prevalence in pregnant women and 2.5 percent point annual reduction in child undernutrition.