Children are most often the first victims of ill health in different forms due to being at a higher risk of mortality and morbidity in general. This is even more so with children belonging to lower income families that may or may not be able to afford quality health care for their children in particular. Lack of proper nourishment from a young age leads to malnutrition among these children, which, besides increasing the risk of death and disease, also leads to growth retardation and impaired psychosocial and cognitive development.
Research shows that in order to break this intergenerational transmission of poverty and malnutrition, children at risk must be reached during the first two to three years of their lives. In the year 2016, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-IV revealed that the state of Chhattisgarh has a large number of children under the age of five, who are stunted in growth and have low mortality ratios. According to the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) data base and reports, District Kabirdham has some 1082 children who are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
These children are mostly enrolled in schools and anganwadis of rural areas. In order to address this issue, a new Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) project has been launched in the district, to especially cater to the hard-to-reach area of Jhalmala, which is home to a large population of Baiga tribals. A part of the newly constructed Community Health Centre (CHC) there, it would support almost 3 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), 15 Sub Health Centres (SHCs) and 58 villages with a high population of those people categorized by the Government of India as ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ (PVTGs). Funded by the Baiga Vikas Pradhikaran, the new NRC has been established with the objective to provide clinical management of health issues and to reduce mortality among children with SAM, particularly among those with medical complications. The NRC will also promote physical and psychosocial growth of these children while building the capacity of the mothers and other care givers regarding appropriate feeding and caring practices for infants and young children. An important part of the NRC’s work would also be to identify the social factors that contributed to the children’s slipping into SAM conditions so as to address them in a well-planned manner.
Under this project, several health services specific to children such as 24-hour care and monitoring, treatment of medical complications, therapeutic feeding, provision of sensory stimulation and emotional care, social assessment of the family to identify and address contributing factors, counseling on appropriate feeding care and hygiene practice, demonstration and practice of preparation of energy-dense ‘child-friendly’ foods made using locally available, culturally acceptable and affordable food items and follow up of children discharged from the facility, are ensured. This move aims to ensure that the children living in these parts are not excluded from receiving quality health care support because of their geographical location being inaccessible for some reason or the other.