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Teaching mothers healthy habits in India

© UNICEF India/2009/Vishvanath
Colourful posters welcome women to the ‘anganwadi’, or health centre, where women are taught to care for themselves and their children as part of the Mamta Divas programme in Valsad, Gujarat, India.

GUJARAT, India, 4 September 2009 – “I wish the ‘Mamta Divas’ were there when I had my first child. She is 13 years old and looks eight or nine. My son is a different story,” says Mennaben Gavit, proudly holding her healthy one-year-old boy on her lap. 

The UNICEF-supported Mamta Divas (Mother’s Day) programme was launched by the Government of India in 2005. One day each month, every state in the country provides essential health services for mothers and children. 

Despite recent impressive economic growth in Gujarat State, 45 per cent of children under the age of three are moderately or severely underweight, and 55 per cent of women are anaemic. 

Reaching remote areas
UNICEF and its partners are making a concerted effort to improve the health of the mothers and their children – especially those in hard-to-reach regions. The programme has been running in Valsad since 2006.

“We have seen a marked improvement in coverage, especially in the remote areas,” said Valsad Chief District Health Officer Dr. Madhavji Gajera.

Outside the ‘anganwadi’, or health centre, in the Valsad District, a large banner announcing the Mamta Divas  welcomes women in colourful saris, some pregnant, others carrying children on their hips and in their arms. Inside, posters on nutrition and hygiene are displayed in the main room.

Nutrition and antenatal care
Women and children wait while health workers weigh children and record their growth on a chart. The supervisor shows the mothers how their children’s progress compared to the rest of the community and provides advice on how to feed infants and children healthily. 

© UNICEF India/2009/Vishvanath
A child receives his vaccination as part of the Mamta Divas programme in Valsad, Gujarat.

A special ‘Mamta Card’ has been designed with easy-to-understand information covering pregnancy, lactation and caring for children under the age of five. Women in the programme can exchange mobile phone numbers with health workers so they can be easily reached in emergencies.

Ms. Gavit, meanwhile, is delighted at the progress her infant son is making. He is a testament to the success of the programme, which is being replicated in other districts and in different parts of the state.

“I had three antenatal check-ups when I was pregnant with him, got all my supplements and immunizations,” said Ms. Gavit. “My son was born in a hospital.”



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