Maharashtra’s child stunting declines: What is driving them?

From 2006 to 2012, Synergos worked with Unilever, UNICEF, and a group of India stakeholders from business, government and civil society in the Bhavishya Alliance, a unique multistakeholder partnership aiming to reduce child undernutrition in the several districts in the State of Maharashtra.

Bhavishya served as a rare opportunity for those in corporate, government and civil society sectors who are committed to reducing undernutrition to plan and implement a series of innovative pilot projects in target areas of Maharashtra.

Research has found that stunting (the main manifestation of undernutrition) among children under two in Maharastra fell from 39% to 24% over the same time period.

A new report, Maharashtra’s Child Stunting Declines: What is Driving Them?, from the Institute for Development Studies and UNICEF explores the driving causes of this rapid decline. Among factors for this achievement are women's empowerment, which was a key component of Bhavishya's work, and the strengthened performance of the Integrated Child Development Services of Maharashtra and the Nutrition Mission government agencies that participated in the partnership. The report notes that:

”[T]he journey to lower stunting rates in 2012 had its roots in the early 2000s work of V. Ramani and others. A number of dedicated bureaucrats, civil society activities and members of the media worked hard to frame the notion that a high level of undernutrition is not an acceptable norm.”

Key innovations of the alliance included ICDS providing day-long care to children of working mothers in two slums and at three construction sites in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, where migrant worker families often lack access to services for their children as well as an innovative project with Taj Hotels to improve the quality and variety of food at ICDS day care centers.