Madhya Pradesh: Action against Hunger team reaches out to women on phone

BHOPAL: Corona epidemic ripping through the state and all the resources of the government are being consumed to battle against the contagion. Whether it is medical or paramedical personnel, including frontline health workers such as ASHA, ANMs and Aaganwadi workers; medical college hospitals or primary health centres – all are focused on dealing with the pandemic. And that has adversely impacted the implementation of the health and wellbeing schemes for expectant and new mothers and infants and children.

And Madhya Pradesh needs these schemes badly. According to the Sample Registration System (SRS), the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the state is 48 - the highest in the county. It is 52 in the rural areas and 36 in urban parts. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in the state is 188, the third highest among all states.

In order to ensure that focus on Covid-19 doesn’t take a toll on maternal and infant child health, an NGO, Action Against Hunger, has launched a campaign in the tribal-dominated Dhar district of the state.

Due to restrictions on movement of people and the need to follow distancing norms, the organisation is using the phone to reach out to the women. Since March 2020, the workers of the organisation have made 2,226 phone calls to counsel families, organised 329 community education sessions on sanitation and hygiene, conducted 1,305 home visits to track health of pregnant and lactating women and provided mobilisation support to government’s front-line workers during Maternal Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) days.

The corona scare has created many kinds of misapprehensions in the minds of the women. “One of them called up to ask whether she can breastfeed her child though she is having cold and cough,” state manager of the organisation, Shringar Bedi told Free Press.

To help families track their children’s nutritional status at home, 106 mothers were trained on using Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tapes. These color banded tapes help identify early signs of malnutrition in children below 5 years of age and seek medical help before severe malnutrition sets in. With this, mothers can independently track their child’s health without contacting ASHA and Aaganwadi workers thereby avoiding the risk of infection through social interactions.

Executive director of the NGO, Snigdha Sahal said, “We are not only trying to address immediate problems of accessibility and affordability of food and nutrition, but also trying to empower communities to stand up for themselves in the long run”.

They are educating mothers on using MUAC tapes, tracking the health of their children at home and seeking medical help through Anganwadi worker when needed, she added.

Besides, the organisation also reached out to 41 Panchayat members in the district. They were sensitised on topics related to age-appropriate nutritional needs, food security, health care and government services available during COVID-19 and assisting communities in addressing their needs. As part of their relief operations, they have provided 25,000 masks, 10,000 gloves and 730 litres of hand sanitizers to the district administration and 314 hygiene kits to pregnant women in 146 villages.

Snigdha said additionally they are assisting panchayats as they play a decisive role in generating awareness on COVID-19 and availing various government entitlements within their communities, monitoring Village Health Nutrition and Sanitation Days (VHSND), distribution of Take Home Rations (THR) and functioning of PDS.

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