Poongadi with her children one year after the tsunami
By Priyanka Khanna
Nagapattinam, December 2005 - Poongadi, 23, Radhika, 21, and Panchali, 28, were in various stages of pregnancy when the tsunami struck their villages on the southeastern coast of India on December 26, 2004.
UNICEF doctors found them in relief camps and examined them in the course of their visits soon after the disaster. Two of them, Poongadi and Radhika were anaemic and Panchali was suffering from acute depression. A year later, Poongadi, Radhika and their families continue to benefit from UNICEF’s interventions. Panchali lost her baby.
The volunteers carry out a house-to-house check-up and advise mothers and mothers-to-be on best ways to take care of themselves and their children.
UNICEF’s Dr. Praveen Khobragade had diagnosed Poongadi as anaemic and prescribed iron folic acid and calcium supplements. “I followed the doctor’s advice and had iron tonics. I gave birth to my second son – Kavian - two months after the tsunami,” says Poongadi. Mercifully, her husband and first-born son Vishwa survived the killer waves.
Kavian was born in the ITI temporary shelter. He is regularly visited by UNICEF health volunteers who have been appointed to support government child care-givers or Aanganwadi workers (AWW) as part of UNICEF’s tsunami recovery programme.
The volunteers carry out a house-to-house check-up and advise mothers and mothers-to-be on best ways to take care of themselves and their children. “The health worker told me how to breastfeed my child the right way,” Poongadi says.
Poongadi’s first born - Vishwa - goes to the Aanganwadi where he and other 3 to 5-year-olds are cared for and fed balanced nutritious meals. “When Vishwa was born, Aanganwadi workers never visited him nor counselled me. Now he goes to the Centre everyday,” says Poongadi.
Radhika with her new born one-year after the tsunami
Radhika was eight-months pregnant when UNICEF doctors met her and her husband in a relief camp housed in the Govinda Ammal Govindaswami Shelter in Nagapattinam district with some 450 other people who had all lost their homes.
Panchali and her husband are planning to have another child. It is the only hope that keeps her going.
Radhika gave birth to Shobika, her first child, within a month after the tsunami. “The doctor told me to eat nutritious food and take care of the baby,” says Radhika. She, however, does not allow the health workers to weigh the infant. “She is superstitious about weighing her first born. We have requested influential people in the community to help reassure her that it’s okay,” says health worker Uma Maheshwari, adding that the child’s health has improved over the last two months.
After her delivery, Radhika looks weak and anaemic. “We have given her iron tablets,” says Maheshwari.
During health check-ups in relief camps, the UNICEF team also came across another pregnant woman, Panchali. She had lost all three of her children to the tsunami and was deeply depressed. The trauma led to the abortion of the child she was carrying. “I used to blame myself. My husband would get drunk and accuse me of killing the children. Now he is better,” says Panchali.
After nearly a year of grieving, Panchali has started to venture out of her shed in Temporary Shelter. She and her husband are planning to have another child. It is the only hope that keeps her going.