UNICEF-trained volunteers at a child care centre in Nagapattinam district monitoring the growth of Arun Kumar
By Priyanka Khanna
Nagapattinam, Kanyakumari, January 2006 - Saroja struggles as she tries to carry her boisterous 2-year-old son Arun Kumar. At 11 kg-and-100 grams Arun is a handful for his mother. But Saroja is not complaining. Her baby had almost died when the tsunami struck her village in Nagapattinam in December 2004.
Arun nearly drowned in the sea and his toe was severed. Due to the trauma and heavy blood loss his weight fell from 10 kg to 6.6 kg within a month.
Care and monitoring at the Centre helped Arun regain both weight and health.
According to a UNICEF volunteer working in the local Aanganwadi (child care centre), “Arun was the weakest of all the children in our centre. His ribs showed through his clothes and he had several festering sores on his body. His eyes were yellow and he was extremely cranky. He also suffered from a respiratory infection.”
Care and monitoring at the Centre helped Arun regain both weight and health. In just a month his weight increased to 7.1 kg. By the end of March, he weighed 8.5 kg, and by the end of October 11.1 kg.
A child at a child care centre in Chinnurpudupettai Village, Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu
“The cause of Arun’s poor health was injury and trauma. Also there were many other children who were not getting nutritious food due to the disruption of livelihoods caused by the tsunami. Getting child care centres up and running was a priority for UNICEF,” says Dr. Prakash Gurnani, a UNICEF Health and Nutrition Officer. At the centre, children are fed nutritious meals – supplemented with protein mix – and provided with toys and other play materials.
The centres do more than just provide nourishment – they also give children a chance to have fun learning.
UNICEF recruited three volunteers for each Aanganwadi and trained them on basic child care practices. These volunteers go on home visits to provide counselling, and medical referrals, if required, to pregnant women, adolescent girls, mothers and young ones.
Saroja now works as a helper in the Aanganwadi along with UNICEF volunteers. As a mother of three, whose husband left her two years ago, the job has brought her much needed financial relief and confidence.
Children at the centres are fed two nutritious meals, at 12.30 p.m. and again at 3.30 p.m, consisting of rice, lentils and vegetables. They are given milk and sweets made of a nutritious mix of gram, wheat, lentils and oats as snacks in the mornings and also evenings.“These centres have played a crucial role in restoring health and happiness to the tsunami-affected children,” said UNICEF Tamil Nadu State Representative Tim Schaffter.
The centres do more than just provide nourishment – they also give children a chance to have fun learning. For five-year old twins Nancy and Dancy and their best friend Rajoni the lessons learnt in this centre will form the foundation of their life ahead as they prepare to leave the centre and start school in a few days.