Until recently, newborns in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Dhaki village were not fed breastmilk. Instead, they were fed a herbal concoction, comprising neem leaves and ajwain (bishop or carom seeds), which are first boiled in water and then left to cool. All 400 families in the village used to follow this tradition, The Better India reported.
The residents also used to follow a ritual in which the mother could only feed her newborn after her breasts were cleansed by her sister-in-law. However, all this has changed ever since a Kanpur-based non-profit organisation, ‘Shramik Bharti’ intervened with the aim to improve health and sanitation in the village.
A Dhaki resident, Suman, 28, says that while her sons have grown up healthy, despite having been reared on this concoction, she will no longer allow other children to be fed this herbal tea. She is one of the NGO volunteers who work to educate pregnant women and new mothers in Dhaki about the perks of breastfeeding.
Shramik Bharti recently collaborated with UNICEF to conduct a nutrition and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) initiative in some parts of Mirzapur and Moradabad in UP.
Drive Against Deaths by Undernourishment
With an approximate population of 220 million, UP sees at least 5,00,000 children’s death annually. 45 percent of these untimely deaths are due to undernourishment of mothers and their children, says a 2013 study by Lancet.
The programme is aimed at improving the health of mothers and children by promoting healthy behaviour and sanitation standards among these communities, with an emphasis on pregnant women, lactating mothers and their children.
The programme covers 20 gram panchayats from Mirzapur and Moradabad.
“The reason for their selection (Mirzapur and Moradabad) was to carry out a nutrition programme in places that have already achieved Open Defecation Free (ODF) status, and thus establish the link between sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition,” Sadhana Ghosh, Programme Manager, Shramik Bharti told The Better India
Linking Nutrition, Hygiene and Sanitation
In order to implement this sanitation and nutrition initiative, Shramik Bharti has partnered with local government institutions and programmes, mapping out potential community influencers.
Among these influencers are religious leaders, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) volunteers and Nigrani Committee members. “Their job is to educate people about the link between WASH and nutrition and inform them about proper hand washing, safe disposal of child’s faeces, food hygiene, and proper feeding of children from birth to adolescence,” Ghosh told The Better India.
Each of the 20 gram panchayat has one community process facilitator, just like Suman. The facilitators are trained by Shramik Bharti for four days in sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition-related issues, before they are sent to the field.
The facilitators regularly visit the homes of families with pregnant or lactating women, and work closely with auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and accredited social health activists (ASHAs).
A register with the details of all children in these villages is maintained, with specific information about malnourished children. The facilitators share these details with the mothers to help them understand the need to make lifestyle changes.
Until four months ago, 770 children in 20 blocks of Moradabad were found to be moderately malnourished while 277 were critically malnourished. After Shramik Bharti and the UNICEF’s intervention, the number of moderately malnourished children have come down by 212, and number of severely malnourished children is now 191.
(With inputs from The Better India)
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