Youth groups facilitate child survival
By Vidya KulkarniThe frequent home visits by Jamshya, a youth volunteer from Devmogra village in Akkalkuwa block in Nandurbar district, are purposeful. Quite often he makes time from his routine farming work to go see families expecting a child. “Home deliveries are quite common in our area. People are not so keen to take the pregnant woman to health centers for a check up or delivery, as they do not see a need for it. I visit them to convince them how health services can ensure well being of their child and its mother,” shares the youth volunteer.
Molgi Primary Health Centre (PHC), today, stands as an example for having improved upon several health parameters, including infant mortality. A recent cluster level house-to-house survey shows a steady decline in the number of neo-natal, infant and child deaths in the PHC area in the last two years.
The number of neo-natal deaths in 2003-04 was 13 and have almost halved down to 6 in 2005-2006. The number of infant deaths for the same period has reduced from 28 to 21. Similarly the child deaths have dropped down to 24 in 2005-06 from 39 two years ago. The PHC records also show 20-30% improvement in incidences of malnutrition. The number of grade 3 malnourished children was 62 in 2004-05 and has reduced to 41 in 2005-06.
These achievements owe their success to an efficient execution of government programmes by the PHC, together with the awareness building by a network of youth volunteers in this area, which evolved from the Village Planning process carried out by UNICEF and the Nandurbar District Administration in 2005.
The VP process has led to an increase in the demand of key health services by the community. And localized support through youth volunteers has sustained the community action to safeguard health and nutrition concerns of the children.
Molgi PHC covers a population of 21,203 spread in 17 villages in the hilly terrain of Akkalkuwa block. Apart from scattered settlements many of the hamlets are inaccessible by road. The situation worsens in the monsoons when small hamlets get cut off from rest of the world for almost four months.
However, the community interaction triggered by the Village Planning process initiated planning and action. Most importantly, health issues of children topped people’s agenda. Following the village planning exercise, local youth willing to contribute constructively for betterment of their community were identified as village volunteers and received an intensive orientation to be able to carry out various activities at their community level.
The youth activity has helped to link community needs to services provided by the public health centre. Sharing about his work Jamshya said, “We assist the Aanganwadi Worker or Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife in their routine work of medicine distribution, weighing babies and so on. We also mobilize community members to take benefit from routine health camps. Awareness on health and sanitation is almost an ongoing activity. Besides, some of us also accompany the families while they have to visit the primary health center. I view it as a community service and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction. ”
Dr. Praveen Jadhav, the Medical Officer in Molgi PHC, admits that awareness building by youth has played a significant role in bringing people close to public health services. After having succeeded in bringing maternal mortality to zero, the PHC now places greater emphasis on institutional deliveries. As a result of improved awareness Molgi PHC reports 67 institutional deliveries in the year 2006-07; a number twenty times more than two years ago! The experience of Molgi PHC just goes on show that investing in community empowerment leads to encouraging results and therefore it needs to go on.