VALID NUTRITION’S ground-breaking operational pilot examining the effectiveness of 3 different approaches to Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) in Odisha (Orissa) is well under way. This pilot is the first time that an Indian government programme has used Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and so represents a really important step forward that has huge potential ramifications.
Since 2008, following a controversy over the unsanctioned use of imported Nutriset product by several international organisations, the use of RUTF had effectively been banned. This has meant that India, home to almost half of the world’s cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), remains the only major country not to use the CMAM approach.
The project is being funded by DFID India and taking place across one district with a population of just under one million. Child development services in the district are well developed and the VALID team has supported and trained over 2,000 community level workers to diagnose SAM, provide basic medical screening and prescribe the correct dose of RUTF to children found to be suffering from SAM. VALID has been working with the government, to train workers and facilitate programme implementation while also helping to develop protocols and guidelines. We have also been involved in setting up a small RUTF production facility, run by a local women’s self help group, which has the capacity to supply RUTF to the whole district.
Vitally, we are collecting data on the implementation and effectiveness of the pilot to provide the government with concrete answers as to the effectiveness of the different approaches in the India context.
If the project is a success – and the data demonstrates that RUTF is as effective in India as it is in the other 65 countries where it is used (initial signs look very positive) – the potential for this project to scale up is absolutely huge.
India has a vast network of community-based child development services with hundreds of thousands of similar centres spread across the whole country. These centres reach up to 8 million children with SAM, who could for the first time be offered effective treatment within a few years.