I might have seen a hundred smiling faces by now and among them, there were many children. As a part of my field immersion activities, along with the team at I DO, we go to a number of villages to conduct household and baseline surveys. Through this, our primary goal is to understand the number of beneficiaries (at Aanganwadis) in each of these villages. We take the height, weight and Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of the children below 6 years of age in order to understand the health status of these children.
Through our intervention at this level we are able to discover the number of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) children in tribal villages of Utnoor Mandal in Adilabad, Telangana. It could get cumbersome at times, especially with the kind of climate we have here. We visit the villages on a regular basis and counsel the parents/guardians of the children to send them to the Nutritional Rehabilitation Center (NRC) for medical and physical therapeutic care provided during their stay at the center.
Under National Health Mission (NHM), 1151 NRCs have been established across the country to provide facility based care for children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and medical complications. These children are referred from villages by frontline workers such as ASHA and Anganwadi staff and are admitted to NRCs as per the defined criteria.
Now that is what we have been doing in the month of April. I was asked to visit some of these adopted villages in Utnoor Mandal and talk to the Parents/Guardians of the children who come under the category of SAM and request them to send the kids to NRC. This is very important due to the fact that the children below 5 years of age are highly prone to the dangers of Medical complications sooner or in their later stage of childhood. Parents have unconditional love for their children and would want to give them everything but when I interacted with a number of parents regarding this issue, almost everyone would refuse to go to the NRC with their children at first. Such repetitive experiences conditioned me before visiting the villages for counselling.
Is it because the parents have lost faith in the services provided especially towards family and children welfare or is it because of the precondition formed due to the experiences following their attempts to get what they deserve?
It was again a sunny day when I went to two villages called Nagapur and Morripet. As usual, I had to counsel the parents and request them to send their children to NRC. On asking one of them in Nagapur for the same, the father outrightly said ‘NO’. I was in for a shock, that even before I could start convincing him properly, he said ‘NO’ to the request. Anxiously, I asked him why wouldn’t he send his child. He did not answer.
The repulsion increased when we explained the importance of taking care of the child’s health as early as possible by going to the NRC. They would say that they have a lot of work and cannot afford to go to the center leaving the work or would talk about a function coming up due to which they cannot leave. Some would say that they feel uncomfortable about defecating indoors at the center as they all practice open defecation here. This might not be a major reason but we have heard it from them, a fact hard to digest. The villages are in the remotest areas of Utnoor Mandal, inaccessible during rainy season. The roads are yet to be laid as it is a Reserve forest area and the forest department would not give permissions easily. The occupancy in the NRC here is only 10 and there are no staff to go and pick the children. These are the main reasons why ‘I DO’ has to intervene and perform the duty at hand. Our team is able to admit extremely weak children in the NRC and help them grow with better nutrition and health.
I always feel elated with their faces brightening up. Through my long walks in the villages, I’ve begun to see much more. It is indeed challenging to live and work in these situations but I truly believe that one day, after continuous efforts, we will be successful in giving these children the best services for their upliftment.