CLWs fight malnourishment among slum kids

Prajakta Joshi
Thursday, 25 April 2019

“Most of the NGOs, as well as corporates, try to implement social projects in the rural areas. However, urban slums often remain neglected. It is shocking for some people that cases of malnutrition are found even in urban areas,” Project Manager Shrutika Mungi said.

PUNE: “The most difficult part of our job is getting a mother to agree that her child is a victim of malnutrition, and needs treatment,” said Samina Sheikh, who works in the Gandhinagar slum area in Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) limits.

She is one of the eight ‘Community Link Workers’ (CLWs), who are working in around 15 slums in PCMC areas to spread awareness about health among women and children in these dwellings. Under the malnutrition project of NGO Sneh Foundation (supported by Tata Power), these women have identified and ensured treatment to 1,091 children with malnutrition at the  slums in Pimpri-Chinchwad in the past five years.

“Most of the NGOs, as well as corporates, try to implement social projects in the rural areas. However, urban slums often remain neglected. It is shocking for some people that cases of malnutrition are found even in urban areas,” Project Manager Shrutika Mungi said.

Mungi, along with Dorthy Joseph and Ravi Ambore, are guiding the eight women through the project. The CLWs choose specific areas, survey the population there and identify children suffering from malnutrition. 

“The most challenging part starts after this. We have to talk to their parents, especially mothers, who are difficult to convince. For them, the word malnutrition means something bad. They are averse to any kind of treatment. We have seen many cases of chronic malnutrition too, where the child needs to be hospitalised for 21 days. We have had cases where the child has been taken away from the hospital by the parents in the middle of the treatment,” Sheikh stated.

These women, Sheikh, Sujata Kale, Sangeeta Kumbhar, Sunita Salunkhe, Shilpa Tathe, Pratibha Tenkale, Devyani Gawli and Puja Chumbalkar, are not trained doctors.

But for people from the slums and their kids, they are no less.

“Most of these women are hardly Std X passouts. That is our minimum qualification. While we met two of these as our beneficiaries first, the rest too were picked from the communities itself by us,” Sneh Foundation CEO Shraddha Deo said.

These women have been trained in paramedic treatment by doctors.

“After the CLWs identify children, we bring doctors, paediatricians to conduct their full medical examination. According to the level of malnutrition, the child is prescribed medicine and diet,” Deo said.

She said the government, through Anganwadis, provides therapeutic powders for the children to improve their condition. “But since these powders are tasteless, many kids refuse to eat them, and they lie unused in the houses. Our CLWs now show the parents simple recipes that can be prepared so that the powders could be fed to these children,” Deo added.

INSPIRING OTHERS
“I met the CLWs and the others first as a beneficiary. It was unbelievable for me too that my child is suffering from malnutrition,” CLW Sangeeta Kumbhar said.

She added, “Once my child was cured, I wanted to make others aware of this condition so that they too could provide their children with a timely treatment. Hence, I decided to join as a CLW.”

Such are the stories of all the CLWs. While all of them come from families with marginal income, the project is a way for them to earn a livelihood, as well as to make a difference in their community.

“When I began working in the Kala Khadak slum area, there were 27 cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and 30 of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM). Now, after two years of work and follow-ups, we have no such cases left. We have also successfully rehabilitated 18 children who were either orphans or were neglected by their single parents,” Sheikh said proudly.

At present, the project is going on at Phule Nagar, Shantinagar, Anand Nagar, Dalvi Nagar, Balaji Nagar, Nehru Nagar, Vitthal Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Landewadi. The areas like Kala Khadak, Deluxe Vasti, Pavana Nagar, Gavli Matha and Nade Nagar, which were covered earlier are now only observed for follow-up.

“We have seen houses of alcoholics and poor labourers, where the children have absolutely nothing to eat, forget healthy food. Anganwadis have some healthy food for these children, but the distributors do not always reach them. We connect these young beneficiaries to the government schemes,” Sheikh stated.

THE SYMPTOMS
Pune also has cases of chronic malnutrition. Here, the child shows several symptoms like swelling in legs, baggy pant, big head and stomach while the rest of the body is thin, bulged out backbone, etc. In these cases, the child has to be admitted to a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) for 21 days. The facility is available at two hospitals in PCMC area - Aundh Hospital and DY Patil Hospital - for free. The parent who has to stay with the child is also provided with unemployment allowance for sustenance. There is a facility for siblings of the child to be taken care of too.

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