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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

In southern India, children’s centres play vital role in tsunami recovery

© UNICEF India/2006/McBride
Under the watchful eye of staff, children at the UNICEF-supported Anganwadi centre in the village of Singarathoppu, southern India, enjoy some play time.

By Rob McBride

SINGARATHOPPU, India, December 2006 -  As parents arrive and deliver their sons and daughters, the babble of young voices builds and the simple concrete building is filled with a lively gathering of pre-school children.

This is one of India’s Anganwadi centres, which cater to the welfare of children and their families. They can be seen throughout the country, but here in the tsunami-affected south they have proved particularly valuable for communities recovering from the tragedy of two years ago.

Now that new toys, learning materials and furniture are being provided by UNICEF and its partners as part of the ongoing recovery effort, parents are eager to get their children into day-care centres like this one.

“Before, many parents would just bring the children for the meal,” says the resident Anganwadi worker in the seaside village of Singarathoppu, K. Premavathi. “But now, they want them to come and play longer.”

© UNICEF India/2006/McBride
After each morning session, the children at the Anganwadi centre are provided with a nutritious meal.

Fully equipped centre

Today the fishing village, which was ravaged by the tsunami, is back on its feet. The harbours are busy, but the wreckage of old boats is still in sight. With memories so painful, it is difficult to believe how life has moved on.

One of the children playing in the Anganwadi centre, Preetha, was born a few weeks after the tsunami. Today she is trying to work out which wooden shape fits into which hole on the board in front of her.

Preetha and the other children at the centre spend their mornings playing and learning, after which they are provided with a nutritious lunch. In a poor community like Singarathoppu, this service is vital to staving off malnutrition.

Normally, the parents return after lunch to bring their children home. But in this region, a group of UNICEF-supported volunteers is helping extend the service into the community.

© UNICEF India/2006/McBride
Community volunteer Uma (left) talks to a mother about good nutrition during a home visit.

Community volunteers

Sumathi is one of these volunteers. Her mornings are spent at the centre, and after lunch she begins her rounds of the local community. 

“On my rounds I will visit the expectant mothers to check that they’re taking care of themselves,” she explains. “I also visit the homes of feeding mothers, to make sure they’re doing exclusive breastfeeding.”

Armed with her list of calls for the afternoon, Sumathi works her way down small lanes, moving from house to house, visiting women and girls like an older sister. A few lanes away, her colleague, Uma, does the same thing, checking with a mother to make sure she understood the basics of good nutrition.

Like all the other Anganwadi volunteers, Sumathi and Uma are providing an essential service in a community still recovering from the effects of the tsunami.




December 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Rob McBride reports on how a fully equipped child-care centre is making a difference in a south Indian community ravaged by the 2004 tsunami.
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