GOOD NUTRITION – KEY TO SURVIVAL
By Chanrav Burenbayar
Thazanguda shelter, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, 26 June 2005 - Eighteen-year old Nitiya, was married well before the tsunami struck the Indian shores. When the UNICEF team met her she was expecting her first child within four days. Not very long after I left her village Nitiya was taken to the district hospital where she gave birth to a healthy baby girl weighing over 3kg - Abita. Mother and daughter are doing well.
Abita has already been administered her first dose of oral polio vaccine and received other routine vaccinations including measles, newborn tetanus elimination and Vitamin A supplementation. Equally importantly Nitiya is breastfeeding her first baby.
Nitiya was a frequent visitor to the local primary health centre for regular prenatal check up before coming to this village to stay with her mother during her last months of pregnancy. After coming to the village, she has been visited by personnel from the local health center and also the local UNICEF coordinator on health and nutrition Ms. Leela Krishnan.
The tsunami has created crowded conditions for people in temporary shelters, increasing their vulnerability to a variety of diseases and health problems – this is of particular concern for pregnant women and newborns who are especially vulnerable. Priority emphasis is being given by UNICEF to promoting Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses as the key strategy for strengthening immunization and nutrition assessment and management at the community level in the temporary tsunami shelters, like Thazanguda,.
UNICEF’s strategy includes reaching out to adolescent girls before they become pregnant for the first time to convey the message that pregnancy is a critical time and that women need to be healthy and prepared for it. It also educates young women, before they marry or have children of their own, that they must look after their own health to ensure the future well-being of their family.
Many young lives in India are lost due to parents failing to recognize early warning signs of ill-health and not taking sick children to health facilities in time. UNICEF is actively promoting health education in camps to encourage better caring practices of pregnant women including, improved hygiene practices, reduction of workload, ante-natal care visits and access to quality food and subsequently exclusive breastfeeding.
“Many people may not feel responsible for their new and temporary surroundings, leading to unsanitary conditions. For these reasons, UNICEF’s strategy includes reaching out to adolescent girls before they become pregnant for the first time to convey the message that pregnancy is a critical time and that women need to be healthy and prepared for it. It also educates young women, before they marry or have children of their own, that they must look after their own health to ensure the future well-being of their family.
Six-month-old Mahesh, seen here with his father, is breastfed and also receives complementary feeding, according to his mother, who has been counseled by the UNICEF coordinator who visited the camp to give nutrition and health advice, and told the family about the protective value of breastfeeding. UNICEF is working toward the goal that 80% of all infants in the tsunami-struck areas are to be exclusively breastfed for the first 6-months of life.