A smile shared. Manusadhwadi Village, Rhea with Arpita.
At 5yrs age she has been treated for malnutrition for nearly a year and is doing very well. She was refusing to eat her high protein meal till Rhea showed her a music game on her phone. The meal was gone in 10mins!!
It was totally natural moment. I could not believe how easy the communication was between the two of them. The kid was refusing to eat her meal because she was scared of us being in the room with her. This went on for about 10mins and various tricks were tried. I then asked Rhea if she wanted to try feeding her. Taking a cue from the healthworker rhea got her phone out and started a music tile game and both girls started giggling and laughing together.
Malnutrition is a endemic problem affecting 10% of under 5's in Melghat. The causes are multifactorial with poor diet, maternal illiteracy, poor weaning practices and other societal issues. Treatment requires identification and then severity assessment and done according to WHO guidelines. The MAHAN project is unique in that it is community based treatment along with treating tuberculosis a major disease that affects malnourished children (upto 50%). The other project that underpin its success, is the Kitchen Garden project, allowing families to grow their own food and become self sufficient thus preventing recurrence.
Village Health Workers: The heroes
We went to see a one day old infant when the VHW who took basic assessment (temp, weight, feeding etc) and administered Vit K inj. The meticulous aseptic technique was impressive. These VHW's are trained in basic medical skills by MAHAN Trust.
Counselling for the Villagers, (Asha 2nd from right, and Priyanka 1st from the right)
The counsellor programme is one of most unique enterprises to come off the MAHAN initiative. Locals and tribal villagers do not trust the system, doctors and nurses do not speak their local language to make matters worse. There are lots of barriers to convince them of the need for seeking medical advise and treatment. Coupled with this, are long held superstitious beliefs and faith in tradition healers "Bhumka, Pariyar" This presents a very problematic situation when dealing with even simplest of illnesses such as chest infection, malaria, hypertension, perinatal complications etc.
Enter the Counsellers. Locals who have been schooled to 12th Std and speak the local language "korku" will act as liaisons to deal with the impasse..
Asha has worked in this role for 12 years. They also act as a check for the PHC providing daily independent reporting of various aspects of services provided.
Priyanka is a dentist and then qualified in public health. She acts a project co-ordinator for the Counsellor programme. Her role run the whole project interacting with all project elements ensuring data collection is accurate and timely.