Nutrition Rehabilitation - reviving young lives
By Anil Gulati
Cuddled in his mother’s lap, two year old Naval looked quite comfortable. Even his mother agreed that her son seemed in better health than anytime since his birth. A cursory look into Nawal’s case history reveals that he has just come through a terrible phase. Although over two years old, he still can’t sit properly and has a severely emaciated body structure. But there is a slight smile on his face and his mother's - smiles that were a remote possibility ten days ago.
Naval was one of several seriously sick and undernourished children from a village called Gadhlagird, in the tribal area of Guna district. Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) Madhya Pradesh has the highest malnutrition rate in India –55% with the tribal Guna district amongst the most backward.An outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting in the area triggered the setting up of the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Guna.
The 16-bed hospital is a veritable boon for the malnourished children of the area and a haven of hope for the parents. The Centre, set up in October 2005 at Guna District Hospital has provided a second lease of life to more than 200 children in a short period of four months. It was started by the District Administration led by then Collector, Nitesh Vyas, utilising funds from state government schemes and support from UNICEF, and many other individual donors from the district. Children who come in virtual skeletons with little hopes of surviving leave the Centre revived, their chances of survival much stronger.
When officers of UNICEF were visiting the Saharia-tribal dominated Gadhlagird village in Guna, they found that the majority of children were severely malnourished (grade II, III or IV of malnutrition). One of the children - Pralhad - was in particularly bad shape with diarrhoea and severe malnutrition and the team decided to refer him to the district hospital immediately. His parents accompanied him and an NGO Sewa Bharti, took care of the lodging and boarding of the parents.
“The hospital stay helped save his life. The child not only survived but was also visibly revived. Even after he was discharged, his parents kept bringing him back for follow-up check-ups and the child slowly grew quite normal,'' recounts a UNICEF officer.
The District Health Officer Dr Ramvir Singh Raghuvanshi, who handles the administration needs of the centre, said “The Centre not only provides regular health check-ups, medicine and required nutritious food to the children, it also counsels the parents regarding proper dietary feeding habits. The mother accompanying the child is provided food during the stay.” The district hospital child specialist visits twice a day. A nurse, a dietician-cum-food educator and an attendant are available the whole time to ensure smooth operations at the centre.
But how does the remote tribal community learn about the Centre and how do they get there? The answer lies in the outreach and communication activities conducted by the Health and Women and Child Development departments of the government, ably supported by animators working with NGOs. The animators perform the role of intermediary between communities and government schemes and not only work with them on promoting positive behavioural change but help create a demand for services within communities. This is all a part of UNICEF’s total intervention in Guna.
Little Nawal and many others like him and their parents can return to their homes comfortable in the knowledge that help is at hand.