The 31st President of the United States of America, Herbert Hoover once claimed “if we could have but one generation of properly born, trained, educated, and healthy children, a thousand other problems of government would vanish.”
The overall health of the future generation is such a crucial factor for any country. Especially for a developing country like Sri Lanka, the future generations are hugely important.
Malnutrition has been a persistent problem in Sri Lanka, despite some health indicators tending to suggest that Sri Lanka is performing alright. It was due to this issue that the National Nutritional Policy was introduced
in 2010, but the country’s nutritional status has not been in great level, according to the Sri Lanka
Demographic and Health Survey in the last few years.
In fact, the health authorities had indicated that malnutrition among schoolchildren, and their poor nutritional status, have been the main reasons for most of the health problems, while it has also been revealed that not taking healthy food, and parents not being able to provide enough meals have been problematic too. So, the need to change this around was a dying need of this Nation, if Sri Lanka is to have a healthy next generation, who would hopefully take the country to new levels.
The Government, having recognised this, is set to launch a national programme under President Maithripala
Sirisena’s concept of ‘nutritious young generation of a Nation bountiful with milk.’
The Grama Shakthi People’s Movement, which is conducting this programme, aims to provide a pack of milk to schoolchildren from a selected set of schools. They are targeting 1.7 million schoolchildren.
The whole idea of this programme is to provide enough milk and nutrition for the children at school, in order to produce a healthy next generation, and the Government has understood the importance of liquid milk.
One pack of milk is valued at Rs 21, which means that this programme would spend a yearly amount of Rs 6.7 billion on 1.7 million schoolchildren.
India, which is considered the world’s largest milk producer, has always opted for liquid milk, while Sri Lanka, for some reason, has mostly prioritised milk powder from New Zealand and Australia. But these two countries very rarely use milk powder. President Maithripala Sirisena, however, has made it very clear that he is not supportive of milk powder at all.
“No matter who says what, powdered milk is not suitable for human consumption. These are made by multinational companies. When I say these things, they will get angry with me. Everyone is angry with me these days; drug barons, tobacco companies, fraudulent pharmaceutical companies. They are all upset with me. But no matter who gets angry with me, these things must be said. For a country to develop, local milk production must increase.”
“When I was going to school, when I was about 15 years old, we had milk from the cow that was brought up at home. When we woke up, I used to take a tin and milk the cow. We used to refer to the cow as ‘milk mother.’ It was only after I milked the cow and handed over the tin to my mother, that I would go to school. If we work according to the whims of these milk powder companies, then that is wrong. I was Health Minister for five years and representatives of milk powder companies came after me then, but I never allowed them to come even inside the gate of my home. I never allowed them to come to my Ministry. That was how I worked,” the President said.
Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Ministry
of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and Rural Economic Affairs have also joined hands, in order to make this programme a success, while one of the main targets of this programme is to make Sri Lanka self- sufficient in liquid milk by 2025. It is also observed that the dairy industry in Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to
produce enough liquid milk at the moment. In fact, at present, the dairy industry produces around 900,000 litres, but still there is less demand, with this programme alone requiring 63,000 litres, in order to cover the primary section of each and every school. Yet, one expects that this particular programme could create a demand for liquid milk, as well as for the dairy industry in Sri Lanka.
The special focus on the schoolchildren is a commendable act, and they certainly are the future of this country. As Herbert Hoover said, having a healthy next generation could find solutions for thousands of problems the country is facing now.