In a little room on the Hatton tea plantation in Sri Lanka, fifty or so young people, most of them under 25, had a smartphone and shared a common purpose. They wanted to use WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook and Twitter to change the way their community perceives nutrition.
A new report brings the spotlight on undernutrition in Sri Lanka’s tea estates—or large plantations—where anemia is widespread among pregnant women and young children, and overall health and socio-economic indicators are poorer than in the rest of the country.
The report also notes that undernutrition is a behavioral and cultural problem, not just an economic one.
The findings of the report have relevance to policy makers, healthcare professionals and the people themselves. Reaching these diverse groups calls for raising awareness around multi-sectoral interventions that could address the nutrition issues in the estate sector. Another strategy that was identified involved developing a collaborative network of multi-sectoral stakeholders who were invested in tackling nutrition issues on the plantations.
A communications needs assessment and gap analysis was commissioned to envision solutions to the challenges highlighted in the report. One of the report’s recommendations was that Information Technologies (IT) be used to empower young people from the plantations, tapping into the networks of grassroots organizations. The World Bank partnered with Sarvodaya-Fusion together with Sarvodaya Women’s Movement as Community Service Organization partners to drive the campaign in the estate sector.
A pilot project based on Behavior Change Communication, as recommended by the Multisectoral Nutrition Assessment, was designed. A group of young people were chosen for their enthusiasm and initiative. Together, they brainstormed ways in which simple technologies could be harnessed to share information and knowledge on health and nutrition, not just among themselves but society at large. Over time it was hoped these young people would become change makers and leaders.