A large percentage of pregnant women in India continue to fall prey to malnutrition and anaemia due to the lack of proper guidance regarding their diet. This is one of the primary reasons for the high maternal and infant mortality rate in the country.
However, one doctor in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu has been fighting to bring down the mortality rate along with malnutrition and anaemia in pregnant women for the past 12 years, and his method will amaze and impress you at the same time!
Every week, Dr V Soundarrajan, the head of a primary health centre in the Seruvaviduthi village of Thanjavur district, harvests about 20 kilos of vegetables from the kitchen garden of the health centre, to feed 50 pregnant women who visit it for check-ups.
“Every Tuesday around 50 pregnant women visit the primary health centre. Most of them come from low-income families and are anaemic. They have no knowledge of good food habits due to illiteracy. So, instead of preaching to them, I decided to give them the required healthy food,” says the 54-year-old doctor to Times of India.
With the intention of providing at least one nutritious meal to expecting mothers, the initiative took flight in 2006 and the doctor, who is a specialist in diabetic medicine, invests his own time to clear the ground, sow seeds and water the plants.
However, it was only six months ago that he started incorporating organic farming methods to ensure that through the meals prepared at the health centre, expecting mothers were getting proper nutrition.
Soundarrajan, who has been working at the health centre since 1992, receives financial assistance from sponsors to keep the weekly lunch scheme going. Across the one-and-a-half acre patch, the doctor grows vegetables like snake gourd, okra, pumpkin and cluster beans and the excess produce is distributed among the women, who are also supplied with food like dates, boiled pulses and fruits.
He also makes it a point to take these mothers to the garden and explain the nutritional value of various vegetables, to them.
His selfless initiative didn’t go unnoticed, and the state government came forward and provided Soundarrajan with monetary aid. The various efforts undertaken by the doctor earned the health centre the ISO 9001 certification. Among these, the most noteworthy one was the construction of a park on the premises of the centre, for the children of patients, as they are often left unattended.
A salute to the doctor, whose selfless crusade is ensuring a better life for expecting mothers in the region.