By Farhat Saiyed and Anupam Srivastava
RANCHI (Jharkhand) October 2005 - Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, on October 2 launched the UNICEF-supported Dular project in three additional districts of Jharkhand state - in the presence of 24,000 anganwadi sevikas. “This is a model project and I am very happy that the children and women of three more districts of our state will have the benefits of the Dular project,” he said. The Dular project, operational in four districts till recently, was extended to another three after its success in the field. Dular will now reach 3 million children and women in the state – nearly double the existing outreach number.
The success of the programme is credited to the anganwadi workers from the Integrated Child Development Services department (ICDS) who were awarded letters of appreciation, on the occasion, by Mr. Munda. Together, they chanted a pledge to make women and children healthy and happy. Their voices filled the large natural venue – a field surrounded by hills. Commending the role of anganwadi workers, Mr Munda said, “You carry good health to people. Without the gift of good health, people cannot be happy. It is a privilege to have such a role in society.” The pledge was in harmony with the Health Department’s slogan “Healthy Jharkhand, Happy Jharkhand.
The Dular project, operational in four districts till recently, was extended to another three after its success in the field.
Dular, a Hindi word, means love and care. The Dular project started three years ago in selected districts of Bihar and Jharkhand to combat malnutrition, infant mortality and poor maternal health. At its core was the strategy of getting the people to be responsible for their own welfare. According to the UNICEF Representative for Bihar and Jharkhand, Bijaya Rajbhandari, “Dular has proved to be one of the most successful strategies of improving infant and maternal health. It deserves to go to every district of Bihar and Jharkhand, where malnutrition levels are among the highest in the country,” he said.
A national survey carried out in 1999 indicated that more than 50 per cent of the children in Bihar and Jharkhand were malnourished. While designing the strategy to combat malnutrition, UNICEF introduced a programme whereby community members, acting as volunteers and “peer educators” within their locality, would bring about a change in their own socio-economic environment, characterized by poverty and lack of education. The project was launched in 2001 in four districts of Bihar, and, later, in Jharkhand (a state carved out of the state of Bihar in 2000).
The Dular project started three years ago in selected districts of Bihar and Jharkhand to combat malnutrition, infant mortality and poor maternal health.
An evaluation of the project, carried out by the Tufts University, shows that the number of women receiving antenatal check-ups increased from 49 per cent to 82 per cent during the first four years of the project. A comparison between Dular and non-Dular districts indicates that the percentage of mothers feeding colostrum to their children – known to be extremely vital for children – had increased from 22 per cent to 82 per cent in the project districts. The Dular project was recently extended to three more districts in Bihar as well. “The expansion of the Dular project signifies the recognition of this strategy. It is a perfect example of what UNICEF is trying to achieve – show how to make things work for children and get governments to take it up at a larger scale,” said Mr. Rajbhandari.