Optimizing family health through dietary diversity

With 22% of Sri Lankans undernourished and 15% of children stunted, malnutrition is one of the most serious issues that has perennially gone under the radar. Through the “Reaching the Unreached Estates and Surrounding Communities on Equitable Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) for Improved Health and Nutrition Project” a series of workshops have been planned to provide awareness of the issue. It also focuses on practical, family centric mechanisms to ensure that the families can leverage the great food diversity of the country to provide the type of nourishment that is critical to the health of both children and adults. The Project is carried out by Solidaridad Network Asia along with its partners, the Nucleus Foundation (NF) and the Institute of Social Development (ISD) with support from the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association (SLMNA) and funded by the European Union. The first few programs have been carried out in the Matale, Nuwara Eliya and Monaragala Districts with over 525 community trainers trained to take this message back to their communities. The events were conducted by Ms. Kumudini Gunasekara, former Chairperson Sri Lanka Food Promotion Board with guest presentations made by the Nutrition Medical Officers from SLMNA on the importance of proper nutrition. Dr. Renuka Jayatissa, Consultant Medical Nutritionist, Head of Nutrition, Medical Research Institute and President of SLMNA who conceptualized the program stated, “As a developing country, Sri Lanka has shown improved health outcomes for a number of years. But poor nutrition still continues to be a prevalent health issue, especially in the estate sector, surrounding rural villages and schools of our country. Therefore, it has become a dire need to address the nutritional issues of these areas, through targeted interventions such as this, to bring up the overall nutritional status of the country to a satisfactory level”. Instead of simply being a theoretical training session, this program approached the problem from a practical perspective, with a cookery demonstration that introduced a number of easy to prepare recipes of high nutritional value and low cost local food varieties. The participants also had the opportunity to have a hands-on food preparation and tasting activity as part of the program. Completing the loop, the participants were shown how to use their lands to grow the healthiest crops not merely as a home garden or kitchen garden but rather, as a nutrition garden. The objective of the program is to build the capacity of community leaders, school teachers and other grassroots level officials who can train their respective communities on providing the right nutrition for families in estates and surrounding communities. Ms. N. Wasanthi Kumari a teacher from Pedro TV Nuwara Eliya said, “The program was very good. The information will be very useful to our students. It provided us with technical advice, how to grow crops and how to prepare good food for our families too. So we feel that we have everything we need to eat better and we know we can also teach others in our community to do the same”. Following the successful implementation of the program in Matale, Nuwara Eliya and Monaragala the program will be rolled out in the Badulla District in Passar on the 29th and Lunugala on the 30th of January with representatives from vulnerable unreached communities residing in estates and rural villages and teachers from local schools. Photo captions: (Above) Participants prepare a meal Dr. Renuka Jayatissa (left) and a group work at Ukuwela Ms. Wasanthi Kumari (left) and Ms. Kumudini Gunasekara at a demonstration

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