The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 61 million Indian children suffer “stunted” growth due to malnutrition in early development. Aside from small physical stature, stunting is linked to cognitive impairment, difficulty in school, reduced economic opportunities in adulthood and reduced maternal reproductive health.
DIR’s main objective is to ensure that every child develops in a healthy manner. Our Health Promoters (HPs) are trained to watch for signs, and to treat each case individually.
Like most children in Janta Colony, Janvi (age 2.5 years) lives in an extended household with her parents and grandparents. Her parents run a small “grocery” shop that carries packaged foods, bottled water and other essentials.
Janvi was born premature, weighing just 2.5 kg (5-1/2 lbs). Veena, the HP for the area, counselled the mother to breast feeding exclusively until six months of age. Slowly, Janvi started gaining weight, reaching the “Green Zone” (normal weight) on DIR’s Child Health Charts. Veena then advised the parents to start adding solids to Janvi’s diet.
To Veena’s surprise, Janvi began to slip – first to the “Yellow Zone” (intermediate weight), at which point HPs are trained to probe deeper. She learned that the family diet did not take seriously her advice, and Janvi’s diet consisted primarily of packaged foods, candies, chips, etc., from their shop. Soon, Janvi fell to the “Red Zone” (underweight).
Veena knew it was time to intervene. She visited more frequently to discuss nutrition and encouraged Janvi’s mother to attend street demonstrations for cooking and making oral rehydration solution when Janvi got diarrhea. The family became more diligent and Janvi’s weight is back in the Green Zone!
When DIR began working in Janta Colony in 2005, it was clear this population of 17,000 people had been conveniently forgotten by the local authorities. There were no program to immunize children, infant mortality was extremely high and 87% of all children were malnourished.
DIR’s unique program focuses on training local people to serve as HPs, educating the rest of their community about nutrition, immunization, prenatal check-ups and other aspects of preventive health care. With persistent efforts, rates of childhood malnourishment have plummeted from 87% to less than 20% and infant mortality has reduced to 1/5th of what it was.
Rescuing Janvi from stunting, and thousands of similar achievements in Janta Colony, are all the more significant because they cost no more than $2 per person per month.