Ante-natal Women & Under Five Children’s Clinic (ANC camp) is a medical camp organized by Swasthya Swaraj. It is an important program activity that happens every month in different clusters. To give you a background, Swasthya Swaraj has 2 major clinic centers – Kaniguma and Kerpai. While the former consists of 42 villages divided into 6 clusters, the latter has 35 villages made up of five clusters. Every month there are 2 camps in each cluster. In every camp, there is a team consisting of doctors, community nurses and field animators who examine the health status of pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.
I had never attended an ANC camp before today. Incidentally, it was being held in the clinic center where I was. Even if I don’t write about it, this day will be forever recorded in my memory.
I woke up early in the morning, at 06:00, for a village meeting in Silet. The sun was still hiding behind the hill on the eastern side and hadn’t shown its face. The wind outside gave me chills. I was resisting to get out of my sleeping bag, to leave for Silet, waiting for the first rays of the sun. I was dreaming of getting up, walking out of the room, looking at the foggy air, feeling the moisture on green grass, first rays of sun falling on my body and its heavenly warmth. In the imaginary world, I’d stand there forever. In reality, I’m smiling (which is hard to notice) with closed eyes.
After a quick call with a field animator, to ask him to get ready, we left in half an hour, and spent about 5 hours visiting 3 different villages to finalize the health check-up schedule for school kids (more on that later). As we were coming back from the meeting, I saw a huge crowd of mothers and kids lined up outside the clinic. It was overwhelming to see so many people, close to 100. Crowds make me nervous. Lesser number of people and quieter environments are better.
On entering the clinic, 2 little girls caught my attention. They were sliding along the stairway that leads to the entrance of our Outpatient Department (OPD). They were ecstatic, living in their own world, not bothered about anything. They reminded me of my childhood, but at the same time, I was also trying to guess their age.
Subsequently, I walked straight to the training hall and found another pool of mothers with their young ones. Our staff was busy checking their height and weight. I heard a lot of babies crying. It made me uncomfortable. The height of a 4-month old was being measured on an infantometer, and the kid was crying awfully. I was ferocious at the instrument, all those who came up with it and people trying to hold the baby. Unsure of where my anger was coming from, I wanted to break infantometer into pieces. On the other side, there was a salter scale. Kids who are unable to stand, their weight is measured using this instrument. A child was screaming on the top of his voice as he was being put into the salter scale costume. One of the staff was measuring his Mid-upper Arm Circumference (MUAC). Height, weight and MUAC are three important indicators of malnutrition in a child. In every ANC, these are measured to analyze the growth of a child. In medical terms, it is called growth monitoring.
Most of the children who come to the ANC clinics are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). Due to extreme poverty, they don’t have enough food. Lack of variety in food also serves as a hindrance in growth of children. People here generally eat only twice a day, in the morning before going to the field and in the evening, after coming back. Some of them eat only once a day. Malnutrition level in a child is divided into two grades, Sever Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM). These are measured using a standardized growth monitoring chart. Every child between 2-5 years of age is given Vitamin A supplement and Albendazole (for resistance against ring-worms).
For once, I wanted to pick and throw away all the instruments. Who has given them the right to make kids cry? There was a group of mothers with their children sitting in one corner of the hall. I went and started playing with those kids while they waiting for their turn to be measured. Their smiles were delightful.
I recalled how I used to go out and play as a child, and how priceless those days were. The way I used to aimlessly run around chasing other kids, constantly dissipating all the energy I had. As I transported back to the present, I saw a 4-year-old playing with his mother. Suddenly, he fell down and started crying. The mother quickly grabbed him in her arms, caressing and kissing endlessly and at once, I started missing the warmth and comfort of my mother’s arms.
Lost in nostalgia, I heard a voice calling me, “Sir, we have to go to Kerpai. Ma’am has asked to talk to a contractor for new building”, and that’s how the visit ended. My first ANC clinic experience left a huge mark on me, and it will remain with me forever.