By Anil Gulati
September 2005 - ‘It was not all that easy, initially. Both community members and even health workers used to view us with suspicion but now people in the village trust us and listen to what we have to say. We are with them, even in an emergency’ states Ms. Ramshri Chandel.
Ramshri is on of the three hundred animators supporting UNICEF’s behavioural interventions in Shivpuri district. She is based in village Nohri Kalan. Shivpuri is one of the forty-eight districts in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India.
The UNICEF intervention supports promotion of key behavioural messages, such as hand-washing, exclusive breastfeeding, use of ORS, care of pregnant women etc., which can have a positive impact on the health of women and children in the district.
It has been more than nine months since Ramshri started work with a non governmental organisation ‘Sambhav’, which is supported by UNICEF on behaviour development intervention. The intervention supports promotion of key behavioural messages, such as hand-washing, exclusive breastfeeding, use of ORS, care of pregnant women etc., which can have a positive impact on the health of women and children in the district. Not only is there a difficult terrain to contend with in these districts, but there are several myths and suspicions prevailing in the communities within the districts, making Ramshris’ work more difficult in a district with an already low nutrition and health indicators. Hence, UNICEF in partnership with district administration and non - governmental organisation, took up this project on behaviour development intervention.
As an animator Ramshri is required to interact and develop rapport with each family in the two large and densely populated villages where she works. She also takes care of few hamlets on the periphery of the main village and is an important community interface between health, women and child development service provider and the community members.
Recently, UNICEF, in partnership with the state’s women and child development department, introduced a ‘Mother and Child protection card’ in Shivpuri district. This card contains essential information both for the community members and service providers like anganwadi workers (Women and child development workers at village level) and health workers at village level to monitor health of the mother and child. It also depicts information in pictures, to facilitate use by those who cannot read or write. The card is useful for pregnant mothers, parents of the newborn and care providers, but the real challenge is to make sure that it reaches the mother of the newborn and is used for child centred monitoring and tracking of children under three years of age for their complete health and nutrition care. Ramshri ensures that every pregnant woman and parents of under one year old child have this card in all the hamlets and villages that she visits. The card is updated regularly.
UNICEF, in partnership with the state’s women and child development department, introduced a ‘Mother and Child protection card’ in Shivpuri district. The card is updated regularly.
Ramshri knows the number of pregnant women and newborns in her village at her finger tips. When asked for figures, she replied “There are 69 infants + 4” (‘plus four’ indicating four new infants born that month). Two of the newborns born in the district hospital, received colostrums and were being breastfed; both the mothers had the card, thanks to Ramshri’s enthusiasm and motivation.
Shakun, mother of Rahul who is about six months old, was quite shy to talk and face the camera. She could not read or write but shared with us all the major details in the card based on visuals. Villagers vouched for the difference Ramshri had made.