On June 22, the local bazaar (market) in Dantewada’s Ganjenar village looked more populated than usual.
The reason? A free health checkup.
Walking past the street vendors who were trying to sell items like handicrafts, spices, clothes and utensils, many women and children queued up in front of a booth to get tested.
The checkup incorporated several tests like blood, haemoglobin levels, weight, immunity, and so on. Based on the results, every child and female was categorised, and the ones that were in the malnourished category were registered for a unique nutrition programme.
Since that day, the number of villagers attending the weekly market in Ganjenar has increased manifold. A similar wave can be witnessed across the district.
The ‘Haat Bazaar Health Camp’ and ‘Suposhan Abhiyan’ (nutrition movement) are two initiatives undertaken by the state government in Dantewada, under the aegis of CM Bhupesh Baghel, to eliminate malnutrition among children and women and reduce the overall Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR).
Around 28,000 people will be covered under the programme.
For the next six months, women, children and young girls in the unique nutrition programme will be put on a wholesome nutrient-rich diet. Their meals will include sprouted grains, soyabean and peanuts for protein, eggs for B12, jaggery, green vegetables and pickles for iron deficiency, and so on.
The data compiled at the beginning will be compared with the test results taken at the end of the programme to review the changes, and further action will be taken based on the analysis.
These steps are being taken to combat the high levels of malnutrition in the state.
As per data from the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4), 15 per cent of people in every district of Chattisgarh, have a low weight to height ratio. When it comes to Dantewada, according to the official government official figures, 36 per cent of its population is malnourished.
Sachindanand Alok, the District Panchayat CEO, spoke to The Better India about the reasons behind these grim figures.
95 per cent of the district population is tribal, and most of them are either farmers or daily wage labourers who pay very little heed to the food consumed by their children. Their food habits are also faulty as people consume only rice, thus ignoring wheat and other food items that provide essential nutrients.
Another significant factor lies in the socio-political conditions that exist in the region. Since the district is a Naxal-affected one, the villagers refrain from visiting the doctors. Most of the communities also prefer traditional methods as a cure over medicines.
Since the open-air markets are the only time when they come out in large numbers, the district authorities decided to take advantage by keeping the health checkups in the market, and as anticipated, it worked.
Pregnant women, lactating mothers, children aged between 1-3 and adolescent girls who are school dropouts are our main focus as they suffer from severe anaemia and iron deficiency. The initiatives are getting a good response as more and more people are registering themselves for the programme, says Alok.
Besides health and well-being, the two initiatives can also provide economic benefit to the people. For instance, the government is generating employment among tribal women by hiring the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and anganwadi workers to prepare the food.
To procure grains, vegetables and eggs locally, the government is also encouraging the production of millet and backyard poultry farming.
“We have made it mandatory for farmers to grow vegetables in their backyard and have even distributed seeds for the same.”
Revealing the government’s plans, Alok said that the next focus would be girls who drop out of school for various reasons, and the authorities will provide counselling to them so that they resume their education.
How State-Wide Programmes Are Creating An Impact
The state government has taken several initiatives in the past to boost the healthcare system, and India’s Accredited Social Health Activist or ASHA programme has also made quite an impact.
The ASHA programme trained female community health workers to bridge the wide gap in the state’s health care system and the people. The on-going programme presently has 70,000 female workers actively working towards improving the health status of people.
The Chirayu Yojana is another programme that focuses on children’s health. Under this, the children are mandated to participate in regular health checkups at Anganwadis and government school up until the age of 18.
These health checkups have helped to identify children with severe illnesses including heart ailments, who are then given free treatments and surgeries under the Mukhyamantri Bal Hriday Suraksha Yojana or Chief Minister Child Heart Scheme for children.
The state government has also launched facilities like the Health Helpline, Mahtari Express and Muktanjali that help medical care reach the most secluded parts of the state. The toll-free number 104 is a state-wide functional helpline number can be used for urgent medical attention.
Meanwhile, the Mahtari Express is a free ambulance service for expecting mothers. About 360 vehicles operate across the state under this scheme.
Thanks to the introduction of several health provisions, the MMR and IMR levels in the state have been declining.
Chhattisgarh is slowly but steadily tackling the malnutrition issue and other states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Assam, and Odisha, can certainly take a leaf out of its book and adopt similar schemes and programmes for their benefit.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)