Charitable Trust, Bolpur, West Bengal
During the Corona Pandemic our work could continue. Aside acute medical aid we also have a range of preventive programs in St. Mary (preventive newborn/infant checkup, pregnancy care, awareness training) as well as in the surrounding villages (preventive medical screenings, kitchen garden programs, supplementary food distribution "NutriMix" (roasted wheat-lentil powder with milk, sugar, oil enriched with vegetables and fruits), as well as long-term iron therapy). The pandemic also made additional activities necessary e.g. distribution of soaps, masks, food packets for families.
Recent evaluation of our long term iron therapy confirmed the success of iron drops: in Sep´20 (n=132) (right in the middle of the pandemic) 81.1% of our children (age: 1-36 months) was affected by moderate to severe anemia. The long-term iron therapy successfully increased the hemoglobin concentration over time (from 9.15g/dl to 10.35g/dl) , ...by that in Sep´21 (n=147) the anemia prevalence (moderate/severe) accounted -despite ongoing pandemic- merely 20.4%.
We distribute supplementary food to all children below two years and older ones who suffer from severe malnutrition. "NutriMix" is a roasted wheat-lentil instant mix with sugar, milk powder, oil and enriched with vegetables and fruits from the kitchen gardens. Mothers are trained that a child needs five diversified meals a day, at least one of it shall be a porridge. As NutriMix is quickly prepared and easy to swallow, it helps mothers to practice appropriate infant and young child feeding to foster a healthy development of their child.
To combat malnutrition is a long way. The causes of malnutrition are multifactorial, hereby the acute malnutrition "wasting" (child too low weight for its height) is intertwined with chronic malnutrition "stunting" (child too short for its age). It is not possible to achieve a lasting effect on child´s development for one growth parameter only -without considering the other.
Thus, a rapid and simultaneous decrease in stunting and wasting rates may be challenging to achieve as any decline in stunting prevalence is commonly accompanied by a temporary increase or stagnancy in wasting.
Moreover, the guts microbiome is increasingly discussed to influence the success of nutritional therapies. The gut microbiome of a malnourished child is immature and may be already disturbed at birth, when delivered by a malnourished mother. Moreover, worm infestations, and infections increase nutrient needs but also hamper their absorption. Season has a strong effect on acute malnutrition, for example the monsoon season shall be associated with more infections and in August frequently the rice storage is getting scarce.
Shining Eyes seeks to minimize all detrimental effects that may imply malnutrition or anemia in the child...the complexity of malnutrition makes successes more challenging. Still, we could detect positive tendencies by our supplementary food program between Feb´21 to Sep´21 as opposed to children not receiving this additional meal. 28% of children receiving NutriMix experienced improvements in their weight, as opposed to merely 10% of children not receiving any supplementary food. Similarly, the rate of children losing weight was lower when receiving supplementary food. Most importantly, mothers learn through the house visits by the social/health worker team about diversified diets to use all food groups over the day, proper mother-child interaction (eye-to-eye contact), the benefits of healthy diets, and disease prevention for the whole family.
The Newborn Checkup is a fixed service free-of cost for Santal women living in the surrounding villages by St. Mary Child & Mother Health Care Centre. The preventive checkup follows the guidelines of the German U-investigations to screen for development deficits, heart defects or anemia with a focus on infants younger than six months. In case of heart defects, club feet, or cleft palates we guide children into the offered government schemes. Altogether the timely detection of any detrimental health aspects decisive to secure the health of every child. Also the detection of pneumonia and infections in the young child can safe lives, as the mortality rate is highest for children aged below four months. Our social worker and health worker team invites all women with newborns to our Newborn program.
Shining Eyes India intertwines different spheres of action: (health, agriculture, nutrition) in order to achieve a self-sufficient and healthy life for every Santal family. The focus is on the most vulnerable ones: newborns, infants, pregnant and lactating women.
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer “Tomorrow”. His name is “Today”. Gabriela Mistral, 1948
The St. Mary´s Child and Mother Health Care Centre operates as an interface between village site and city region starting in the village by screening for malnourished, anemic, infectious and neurological patients, pregnant women, or TB suspected individuals. Needy individuals are admitted for preventive checkups, diagnostic and treatment and if necessary are fully guided to specialized health facilities with subsequent monitoring to assure full recovery.
We train health workers and social worker who are closely linked to the community to provide awareness in relevant health topics and continuous support to villagers.
We guide the establishment of kitchen gardens for all Santal families, we promote crop-rotation, and cultivation of Moringa oleifera and Amaranthus tricolor as key plants for achieving dietary diversity and enriching community-feeding interventions.
We provide interactive awareness trainings in topics like breastfeeding, complementary feeding, healthy family diet, hygiene, how to recognize sickness in the child, how to prevent TB to spread, family planning and agricultural aspects. Further we do active cooking sessions inside the household and provide community-based feeding programs. We distribute supplementary food to all children aged below 2 years "NutriMix" (roasted wheat-lentil powder with sugar, milk, oil enriched with vegetables and fruits from the kitchen garden) and older ones when being severely wasted & we offer long-term iron therapy to all children below 2 years and older ones when Hb<10g/dl (moderate/severe anemia).
Step by step we want to change food habits, improve hygiene habits and stabilize the health of children and mothers.
AWARENESS is the key to sustainability
Interactive mother trainings at household level and teaching sessions in a variety of health and nutrition related topics directly inside the community are at the core of this development work. Mothers learn how to prepare healthy food for their malnourished or anemic child. Further teaching sessions are offered to health workers, inpatient women, and surrounding villages directly in the preventive health care centre.
Shining Eyes India embraces three main pillars of action:
Health (to provide medical care and diagnostic to the Santal community as well as preventive medical care (prenatal care, newborn checkup, cervix cancer screening etc.),
Nutrition (to raise awareness for the importance of balanced nutrition in order to break the intergenerational circle of malnutrition and poverty),
Agriculture (to help every family to establish a kitchen garden with a variety of vegetables and fruits, further to start crop-rotation to increase dietary diversity).
These three main pillars are complemented by water, sanitation and hygiene activities (construction of community washing houses and tube wells) and income generating activities/self-help groups.
To raise AWARENESS is interrelated to all pillars and the key to sustainable self-determined development. The mother learns that the health of her child is in her responsibility and she can secure the well-being of her child by taking action on all levels.
We are looking forward to exchanging experiences with other projects and institutions related to health and nutrition.
Pediatric doctors and gynecologists as well as other medical specialists are kindly invited to collaborate with us.