MEERUT, Uttar Pradesh, India – Over the past two years, the Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) of Meerut sub-region has built an excellent rapport with the women in the community through the Jaccha-Bachcha Choupals (Mother-Baby get together groups.
Held in all the SMNet blocks of Meerut district, prior to each round of the polio immunization drive, these meetings educate pregnant women on early and exclusive breastfeeding and also encourage lactating mothers to have their babies weighed.
The local community mobilization coordinators (CMCs) use the ‘Facts for Life’ flip book to orient mothers and pregnant women on looking after themselves and their children.
Jyoti, CMC of Abdullahpur, Rajpura block says, “At these Jaccha-Bachcha Choupals, we talk to mothers about the importance of routine immunization and Polio vaccination. During the rains we recommend the use of oral rehydration solution (ORS), to help first time mothers are able to handle season related illnesses.”
Often, the CMCs demonstrate the process of making the ORS during these meetings.
According to the Meerut Sub-Regional Training Coordinator, Govind Singh, convincing mothers that their children were malnourished was difficult.
“Most mothers would often be puzzled after finding out that their children were malnourished. While we were providing them with information, we were not showing them how to solve their problem.”
Many mothers couldn’t not link frequent diarrhea with malnourishment.
“Only when the children were weighed and the Aganwadi workers explained to the mothers the status of their children’s malnutrition, the mothers really understand the gravity of the situation,” adds Govind.
The meetings provided information on the importance of nutritious food for malnourished children, the need to feed them five times a day and the importance of washing hands both by the mother and child before eating their meals.
In Mohalla Bazar in Abdullahpur, Shaysta refused to immunise her child as she had no faith in medication. With the efforts of CMC Jyoti, Shayasta got her daughter weighed to find her severely malnourished. The Aganwadi worker at the health centre charted out a diet plan for Shayasta’s daughter and gave her tips on improving her health.
Jyoti made it a point to enquire Shayasta about her daughter whenever she met her. This regular interaction and advice motivated Shaysta to have her child weighed regularly and when she was expecting again, she ensured that her new born received all the vaccinations.
The Jaccha-Bachcha Choupal was initiated in 2007. Seven hot spots of Meerut district were targeted which included the urban areas of Tarapuri, Tehsil, Sakoornagar, Lakhipura and Machara, Saroorpur and Rajpura in rural Meerut.
At present, this activity is carried out in all the SMNet blocks of Meerut district. The SMNet ensures that the local Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), Aganwadi worker(AWW) and sometimes the medical officer in-charge are present to facilitate these meetings.
All queries by the participants are effectively tackled by them and the SMNet team also pays a lot of attention in making the choupal attractive.
IEC material is strategically placed for maximum visibility and information on polio and issues related to women’s health are also discussed. A special focus is put on the importance of personal hygiene, cleanliness and its implications on the health of the family.
The choupals have helped CMCs in connecting with more women in their areas.
“Earlier, some women would not listen to anything I had to say. Nevertheless, once they attended the choupal and saw other women listening to me, they started giving importance to the information I gave them for their well being,” says CMC Tanzeem Kishore on her experience in the Tehsil.
Tanzeem gives credit to the Jaccha-Bachcha Choupal for positive health behaviour among women in her area. For example, four women - Saima, Shabana, Rehana and Atma started breastfeeding within an hour of their delivery.
The Jaccha-Bachcha Choupal intervention along with the routine work of the administration and other partners has effectively lowered resistance in the urban areas of Meerut known for its antipathy to OPV.
The number of resistant households reduced from 1,500 to 150. This successful initiative has now been replicated in the adjoining Ghaziabad district.