Foundation for Mother and Child Health India tackles malnutrition through community empowerment

In a small corner of the world, the Foundation for Mother and Child Health India (FMCH) is tackling malnutrition through community education and empowerment.

“To be able to be heard across continents is a really big deal for us,” FMCH CEO Piyasree Mukherjee, MSW says of being featured on Our Milky Way.

Mukherjee will present “Efficacy of Community Based First 1000 Days Initiative Across Two Urban Sites of Mumbai” at this week’s International Breastfeeding and MAINN Conference.

Mukherjee and her team found that the women they worked with managed to nourish their babies to a healthy state by breastfeeding over 70 percent of the time.

“The women we work with are phenomenal,” says Mukherjee.

The FMCH team recently celebrated the closure of their first initiative with the Dhobi Ghat community.

“The whole exit was kind of bittersweet,” Mukherjee shares. “As a non-profit there is a lot of fear saying we are going to close this program.”

But FMCH leaves the community well-equipped and empowered to thrive.

Community support group in Dhobi Ghat

“The community is strong,” Mukherjee confirms.

In fact, she reports that 92 percent of children in the Dhobi Ghat community are healthy under WHO guidelines;  whereas upon entry into the program, 82 percent of children were considered healthy.

“Here we have had the maximum impact on children with Moderate and Severe Acute Malnutrition,” Mukherjee comments.

Numbers aren’t everything to Mukherjee and her team though. Actually, Mukherjee admits that research analysis is not FMCH’s strong suit.

“We don’t understand numbers well,” she explains, and requests the help of other researchers who believe in this work.

Mukherjee and her team often measure success on an individual level.

“We say we have made an impact when we see a mother pick up a bunch of bananas over ramen noodles,” she explains.   

FMCH also places value on nutrition and the perception of health as part of communities’ conversations.

“It’s interesting that people still believe that you are sick only if you are bedridden,” Mukherjee comments.

FMCH community engagement event

FMCH calls on the Indian government to embrace nutrition as part of the national conversation, as well as focus on a preventative health model versus a reactive one that revolves around treatment.

Founded in 2006, FMCH launched its first intervention around 2008 with 200 children. To date, FMCH has worked with over 10,000 women and children in Mumbai and Thane districts of Maharashtra.

In 2015 FMCH had the opportunity to be part of the implementation group of Urban Nutrition Initiative, a first of its kind intervention designed specifically for urban slums by the Rajmata Jijau Nutrition Mission of Maharashtra. This was the first formal working relationship for FMCH with a Government system.

Prior to this connection, Mukherjee says FMCH was working “as a silo…. Not really a part of any existing system.”

“As we grew as an organization, we realized that you can’t really work as a silo especially in an urban setup,” Mukherjee begins. “You have to work within the system.”   

Today as a mandate to their model, FMCH works with the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the local Municipal Health Department.

Help spread the word about FMCH. Find them on social media @FMCHIndia.

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