174 malnourished children nursed back to health

Efforts of an NGO put in for over five years have turned around the fate of 11 slums in Mumbai suburbs

Malnutrition once bogged down half the population of children living in the slums of Andheri-Marol pipeline. Efforts and activities undertaken over five years by an NGO, the Nirmaya Health Foundation have helped over 150 malnourished children recover to ‘healthy status’.

After a survey shed light on the dismal status of health of women and children in the slums near Andheri-Marol pipeline area, in 2012 the NGO decided to undertake up a children’s health project to reduce infant and child mortality among children between 0-5 years.

The plan sought out a step-by-step approach of identifying the target group, and educating and informing them about positive health-seeking behaviour.

However, implementing it was not easy.

“Initially, they were reluctant to listen. Door to door visits to create awareness, and involving local women, especially mothers of infants or children helped take things forward effectively,” said Dr Vinayak Sonwane, Programme Manager and Project in-charge.

Women of the slum were roped in and trained to prepare nutritious foods as best as they could within their means. They were also guided on various immunisations that children needed.

As part of the initiative, the NGO reached over 10,000 families in the last five years.

In the initial years, slums covered were Annawadi, Gautam Nagar, Sanjay Nagar, Sai Nagar, Indira Nagar, Mariyam Nagar, Lelewadi and Ashok Nagar along Andheri-Marol pipeline.

Dr Sonwane said, “After initial success, we scaled up the project to new communities like Nehru Nagar, Sai Baba Nagar, Shivaji Nagar 1, Shivaji Nagar 2, Upadhay Nagar, Krishna Nagar and Bhandarwada.”

According to the WHO, new-borns face the highest risk of dying within a few days of birth. “Majority of these children can be saved by access to simple and affordable intervention. Almost half the number of early infant and child mortality incidents is caused by malnutrition. Child health is not an issue that is restricted to the rural areas; in fact it has become a grave problem in the overcrowded urban slums,” said Dr Sonawane.

“In 2015-16, the NGO along with Glenmark, which provided financial support as part of CSR, covered 11 slums under this project, which led 174 malnourished children recovered to healthy status,” said Dr Sonawane.

Cherylann Pinto, Director, Corporate Affairs, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals said, “Through our various interventions launched along with our NGO partners, we aim at encouraging a positive health seeking behaviour among pregnant women and mothers with infants, and caregivers towards right nutrition including — good hygiene practices and ensuring complete immunisation for children.”

Some of the interventions undertaken included medical camps with distribution of health supplements, health awareness and education sessions, celebrating World health Organisation and Central Government-designated days on various health issues, and setting up of ‘health’ libraries. In each slum NGO officials identified a house were they stocked various literature on health programmes and immunisation drives and schemes available to them.

“Around 2,623 people benefitted from 82 health libraries apart from 7,876 beneficiaries attended healthcare sessions conducted by peer leaders. A total 18 health camps were held where 1,096 people benefitted. Also, 1,147 adolescents attended sessions on health-related issues,” Dr Sonawane said. About 52 community women have been trained as peer volunteers and 25 health libraries initiated in the communities through peer leaders.

The NGO claims that in the last five years, malnutrition level among children have fallen from 50 per cent to 9 per cent. “Child immunisation levels have also increased to 95 per cent while antenatal care (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC) registration has increased to 100 per cent,” said Dr Sonawane.

MOMS KNOW THE BEST

The highlight of the efforts were the cooking competition. “Every three months, women from the slums were encouraged to participate and showcase nutritious recipes. The best 20 of these recipes have been compiled and published in a book,” said Dr Sonawane.

The book aims to enable the mothers in these communities to prepare simple nutritious recipes to improve the health of the children and lead to reduction in the prevalence of malnutrition.