This article has been sponsored by Wipro
About six months ago, Kushalraj, a resident of Chattanahalli village in Karnataka was about 20% underweight. The 2-year-old weighed just 8.4 kg against an ideal weight of 10.9 kg for his age. A checkup during a health camp revealed that he was undernourished and underweight. His parents informed that the baby was not eating well and had frequent fevers.
This is hardly an isolated case — either for this village or in the state of Karnataka.
According to the World Bank, the prevalence of underweight children in India is almost two times more than that of Sub-Saharan Africa. As per their findings, a child under the age of 5 is almost twice as likely to be severely underweight in India as in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, in the state of Karnataka:
● 36.2% of children under the age of five were found to be stunted (38.5% of them were
from rural areas).
● 37.7% of children under five were identified as underweight.
On similar lines, a survey conducted by a non-profit organisation named Rural Literacy and Health Programme (RLHP) revealed that 86 children from 20 villages in and around Mysuru in Karnataka were identified as ‘underweight’.
RLHP has been working in several villages in Karnataka for over 32 years now and reaches out to a population of 1,65,000 people. The organisation operates through its integrated child-centred community development approach and interventions with the help of health committees, child rights forums and campaigns.
Armed with the results of their survey, RLHP tried to bring change to the remotest areas of the state and help improve the conditions there. For this, they were supported by Wipro Cares.
Wipro’s initiatives for underprivileged communities are channelled through Wipro Cares, a unique trust that is based on the operating model of employee contributions matched by Wipro Ltd. Wipro Cares focuses on developmental issues surrounding primary health care, education, ecology and disaster rehabilitation. Wipro Cares partners with different non-profit organisations for implementation of various projects by helping them with financial support and regular engagement through meetings, field visits, and planning and review at essential stages.
“We realised that it is the remotest areas of the state that require our full attention. Wipro Cares understood this and helped us focus our efforts of sustainable change in various areas like health and hygiene, literacy, sanitation, environmental conservation and sustainable development,” says the director of RLHP’s programme, Saraswathi K, speaking to The Better India.
Launched in 2012 in six villages, the RLHP project has now expanded to 20 remote villages in Mysuru.
The multi-fold objective includes improvement of women and child health, preventive and curative approach to communicable diseases, improvement of personal and community hygiene, propagation of eco-friendly practices and empowerment of the communities by increasing the literacy level.
Speaking about one of the significant challenges, Saraswati adds, “In the initial stages, the biggest challenge was to establish trust among the villagers and to be able to involve them in the practices. Change cannot come from the top. It needs to have a bottom to top approach and come from within a community. So we began work by identifying change agents and motivating them to participate in the initiatives. Our efforts to create a full-fledged committee of the villagers to initiate sustainable development is ongoing, and we want to expand that in the near future.”
The project helped many children like Kushalraj come out of their grave conditions. As a part of RLHP’s regular nutrition programme, these children were provided with homemade nutritious food, eggs and the supplement Spirulina, for six months, in addition to various awareness and counselling sessions for the parents.
Health volunteers and RLHP staff regularly visited their houses and followed-up during subsequent health camps.
Following regular check-ups, 60 out of 86 children have shown a substantial increase in their weight and overall health improvement. Kushalraj is also one among them, as he gained almost two kilos in the process.
Another major issue that RLHP took up was of the lack of hygiene. Their need-assessment survey found 99% of the population in the villages practising open defecation.
“After all these years of awareness sessions and training programmes, we have been able to accomplish a major change. Almost 90% populations of six villages have now constructed toilets and are using it. The target is to replicate that change in the next 14 villages,” Saraswati adds.
A village named Lakshmipura is a success story in this context. Almost 13 kilometres from Mysore, the village with a population of 321 people and 47 households, did not have a single toilet when RLHP had arrived. After months of mass awareness programmers along with active community participation, the area now has 40 toilets, with a majority of villagers using them.
Other than these, RLHP has worked on creating awareness about government schemes that the residents can utilise, training of school teachers, training of gram panchayat members, health awareness programmes and a lot more.
The impact they have created so far can increase multifold and help in the sustainable development of these villages.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)