ADRA Sri Lanka and Oxfam Sri Lanka through their jointly implemented Assisting Communities in Creating Environmental and Nutritional Development (ACCEND) project held a research symposium on the 12th of August to launch and discuss its research report on undernutrition among children below the age of 5 in estate and rural communities of the Nuwara Eliya District. ACCEND Project which is funded by the European Union, carried out the study in the Ambagamuwa Divisional Secretariat with the involvement of Dr. Renuka Jayatissa, the Head of the Department of Nutrition at the Medical Research Institute, and Dr. Upul Senarath, Chair Professor and Specialist in Community Medicine at the University of Colombo.
Undernutrition in children under 5 years is a major public health problem in Sri Lanka with the District of Nuwara Eliya reporting the highest rate of undernutrition, indicated by very severe levels of stunting and underweight in children less than 5 years of age. This study aims to investigate nutrition outcomes following an enhanced nutrition care package, developed by the Medical Research Institute. This package optimizes the existing public health services implemented through the Medical Officers of Health, integrates the care with the clinical nutrition services, and is expected to strengthen the existing health system.
Various stakeholders of the ACCEND project were present at the event including the Programme Manager of the EU Delegation, Mr. Chandana Hewawasam who highlighted the importance of taking necessary action towards securing food and nutrition, especially targeting the most vulnerable income groups under the current context in the country. He further stated that ‘‘the European Commission has set itself some extremely ambitious but achievable targets to support countries in reducing the number of stunted children under the age of 5 at least by 7 million (globally) by 2025.’’
Mr. Rohitha Wickramarathna, The Additional Director General of the Department of National Planning (DNP) who was present at the event representing DNP expressed his appreciation towards the ACCEND project for conducting such a study. He further emphasized the government’s efforts to alleviate food insecurity and mentioned that all sectors must work in unison to address this issue.
The ACCEND Project was a five-year commitment of EU’s rural development scheme to improve water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and nutrition in the most vulnerable communities of Matale, Monaragala and Nuwara Eliya Districts.