Bhubaneswar, 25th January 2017 (OdishaLIVE Bureau): In Odisha, high rate of malnutrition is a major concern with every third child under the age of five years is either stunted or underweight. However, during rural elections, it has rarely been a part of public discourse.

Collective Action for Nutrition (CAN), which aims at reducing malnutrition among children and women by strengthening the governance aspects of nutrition, held a consultation today at CYSD Conference Hall in Bhubaneswar where members from various civil society organisations, media and academia spoke on various aspects of malnutrition in the state and of making it an important agenda for the Panchayat elections scheduled to be held in a few weeks.

They felt a People’s Manifesto can be a rallying point in sensitising the community and candidates in the Panchayat election process. It becomes all the more important considering the death of a large number of children in Malkangiri and Jajpur districts last year.

CAN is a project of non-profit SPREAD, which has been working on enhancing nutritional status of women and children in six Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) districts of Odisha for over two decades.

“In the current context, nutrition is not in the agenda of Panchayats. With devolution of resources post 14th Finance Commission, Panchayats will have more resources at hand. With availability of funds, now Panchayats can play a major role in tackling the issue.  The idea to prepare the people’s manifesto is to sensitise the candidates and community on nutrition and address the issue through elected Panchayat representatives,” said Mr. Rakishor Mishra, State Advisor to Supreme Court Commissioners.

One of the main organisers, Mr. Bidyut Mohanty, said that though malnutrition among children had declined to an extent in the state of Odisha as a whole, the condition remained grim in the KBK districts.

He said that they have conducted six such district level consultations in Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangapur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Balangir districts with participation of persons from various stake holders including the community. The consultation at Bhubaneswar was culmination of the process initiated by CAN to prepare People’s Manifesto.

“The finalised People’s Manifesto on Nutrition will be released after accommodating the comments and feedbacks from the consultation. It will be followed by Panchayat level discussions with candidates in the election fray as well as the communities in the KBK districts,” Mohanty said.

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