“THIS ONE is going to cry when I put him on the weighing scale,” Pinki Vishwakarma, a first-year college student who believes in making a difference in society, tells us.
She has been with the Pratibha Swayam Sahayata Sangh (SHG) for more than a year now and is criss-crossing the small lanes in interior bastis of Nandbagh.
Pinki is one of the 39 community-based organisers (CBOs), who along with head CBO Santosh Chouhan of Pratibha SHG, would scan 26 slums with approximately 5,000 houses to identify malnourished children under the ‘Bal Sanjeevani Yojana’ till November 25.
Faced with a disaster-like situation in case of malnutrition deaths, Madhya Pradesh started the Bal Sanjeevani Yojana in 2002 to improve the child mortality rate and infant mortality rate (IMR).
As per the latest SRS figures, maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the State has come down to 379 (2003) from 498 in 1998 but IMR is 79, which is highest in the country.
The existing infrastructure of anganwadis is being utilised to cover children below five years of age. But this number is far less than the required.
“Presently, we have 301 anganwadis in urban areas of Indore district. We have also roped in some NGOs for the cause,” according to Women and Child Development officer Tripti Tripathi.
Approximately, 15 NGOs have been roped in by the department to cover areas not covered by the anganwadis. The team also includes college students.
Trained personnel go from home to home in search of children below five years of age. Once identified, the child’s weight and height is measured which helps in categorising him into category I to IV of malnourishment.
If the child is above nine months, a vitamin A dose is also administered to avoid night blindness. From December, these records would be systematically entered into a six-fold ‘Mother Child Card’ to be maintained by the anganwadi worker for follow-up action. The card has, among other things, a growth rate chart to help determine the child’s status.
However, garbage and unhygienic conditions in urban slums is something the administration has not been able to tackle. “A peculiar example of opposition is in an area of rag pickers where community support is the least. Even women made in-charge are found drinking and playing cards,” observes Tripathi, who herself visited the area.
However, the picture is not as bad as this in all areas. Says Chouhan of Pratibha SHG, who has been covering Nandbag slums since 2002. “Slowly, the people are realising the importance of good health for children.” But is the effort enough considering the scale of malnutrition? Government has come up with a follow-up action by way of the Bal Shakti Yojana, which if implemented properly, would definitely go a long way in changing the sorry picture.
“Under the Bal Shakti Yojana, to start from December, the grade III and IV malnourished children would be sent for hospitalisation while medium grade children would be treated at the follow-up monthly health camps, and their parents would be provided with funds per month for the child’s proper nourishment,” Tripathi adds.
1 Article 47 of the Constitution states, “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties…”
2 National Plan of Action for Children 2005 proposed IMR to be brought down to below 30 per 1,000 by 2010. IMR in Madhya Pradesh is presently 79, highest in the country.
3 A number of health schemes are being concurrently run across the State. Many of them are regular schemes while a few are time-bound. The schemes include – Antyoday Anna Yojana, Mid-day meal scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme and National Family Benefit Scheme, apart from the Bal Sanjeevani Abhiyan, to be extended as a follow up scheme by way of Bal Shakti Yojana from December 2006.