Baby Amisha survives and thrives
Overcomes the death of her mother with support of strong support system and UNICEF-supported Jiban Sampark initiative
RAYAGADA, Odisha, India- When newborn baby Amisha suddenly lost her mother, Esmoni Sabar, her life was at risk. Twenty-year-old Esmoni was at her parents’ village for her delivery and gave birth to Amisha, her first baby, at a health centre. However, Esmoni died within days, leaving behind a newborn and a distraught family.
“We were delighted to hear of Amisha’s birth. She was born a healthy baby. But when my daughter-in-law passed away, I was very distressed as there was a newborn baby to be looked after,” said Gaisang Sabar, 51, Amisha’s paternal grandmother.
The entire responsibility of raising the newborn fell on Gaisang, who was initially unsure if the baby would survive. “I have raised four children of my own. But a newborn without her mother is too fragile. How could I replace the mother? What would I even feed the baby?” she said.
Amisha and her family belong to a primitive tribe, Langia Soura, in Odisha’s Rayagada district. Classified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), these tribal groups, like other primitive tribes, have lower than average development indicators with higher poverty, child mortality, maternal mortality and lower longevity.
When news of baby Amisha’s arrival to Tarbel village in Abada Panchayat was known, personnel from the UNICEF-supported Jiban Sampark initiative informed the Anganwadi worker Puspanjali Devi and auxiliary nurse mid-wife Chiabati Satpathy. The initiative works with Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups to promote improved nutrition and health for children and women.
Together they visited Amisha’s family and counselled Gaisang on kangaroo mother care, hygiene practices for a newborn, immunization and possible danger signs so that they access timely medical services if needed.
Gaisang, who did not receive a formal education, knew little about newborn nutrition and care. It was also not easy for her to devote much time to the newborn as she had a family of 12 members to look after.
“It was critical to ensure the primary caregiver for the baby had complete knowledge. Amisha’s grandmother was repeatedly counselled, and we frequently visited the household to take stock of the baby’s progress,” said Balakrushna Bisoi, SOVA- Jiban Sampark project staff.
Amisha’s village is located on a hilltop with few transport facilities between the village; the nearest primary health centre is nine kilometres away. Health workers typically have to trek uphill to reach the village. Amisha’s birth came during the pandemic lockdown in July 2020, further compounding problems related to mobility.
“We anticipated that frequent visits by the AWW and ANM could be a challenge due to access issues and, therefore, ensuring that someone from the SOVA team visited the family every few days. We also tried to contact a nursing mother in the village who could donate breast milk for Amisha, but unfortunately, there was no breastfeeding woman in the village”
Gaisang was counselled on hygiene and sanitation practices for the baby to keep her safe from infections. “With time, Gaisang gained more confidence and would walk four kilometres to the nearest health centre for Amisha’s vaccinations,” said Jayanti Mandal, ICDS Supervisor, Puttasing sector, Gunpur.
When Amisha was 6 months old, Gaisang was counselled on complementary feeding for the baby and has grown to be a healthy 17-month-now. Her growth chart shows a healthy weight gain and normal development parameters.
AWW Puspanjali Devi said, “Amisha’s grandmother and all her family members followed our guidance and took good care of the child. They consulted us whenever required. Being part of the Jiban Sampark initiative gave me more knowledge and confidence to deal with this case. I am delighted that the baby survived and is in good health now.
With UNICEF’s support, the Jiban Sampark initiative builds the capacity of frontline workers like Puspanjali Devi and provides on-ground support. Through the initiative, community members from tribal groups are encouraged to adopt healthy behaviours to reduce malnutrition among children, women and adolescent girls.
UNICEF Odisha Chief of field Office Monika Nielsen said, “We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable tribal groups that live in Odisha. With the Government of Odisha’s support, the JibanSampark initiative has made a difference in the lives among tribal communities, and we hope to see continued improvement in child survival and nutrition for women and children.”