The impact of poverty on young children is significant and long-lasting. Poverty is associated with substandard housing, hunger, homelessness, and inadequate childcare.
This story deals with a toddler from the Siluan area of Keonjhar district whose life was entirely at risk due to poverty and inadequate childcare. The child identified as Harapriya Mahanta, D/O Pujarani Naik is an example of the success of the ‘Creche’ intervention in the district
While the entire state is running before technology and a transformative life, Harapriya’s story takes us to stumble upon the drudgeries and difficulties faced by poor rural people in one of the tribal districts of Odisha and how it has been taking a positive change through concerted pro-poor initiatives of district administration.
Due to several factors like lack of awareness of the community, poor service delivery mechanism, etc different benefits are not reaching the unreached. In addition, children from low-income families are at greater risk of falling prey to several health and nutritional vulnerabilities and become cognitively, emotionally, and nutritionally poor.
As an unmarried mother, Pujarini faced a lot of problems due to her poverty. Neither she got a place in her law’s house nor at her parental house. Hence she shifted to Siluan and started living in a rental house over there.
However, she had very little idea about the healthy practices a mother should adopt to improve the health, nutrition, and childcare practices of her young daughter. For example, she didn’t maintain exclusive breastfeeding practices. Besides, to mitigate her financial issues, she choose to work in some nearby houses as a maid servant. When she goes out to work, she was always forced to leave her girl alone in her rental room and put some biscuits and water near her hand. Day by day because of inadequate food and absolute lack of childcare Harapriya became too weak and severely undernourished.
When the baby girl Harapriya was just 11 months old in the year 2022, the crèche program started functioning at her village in Siluan. The creche workers who are tasked with identification and mobilization of eligible children for creches found her in a pathetic condition suffering from malnutrition. Harapriya was too weak by then and unable to get the right childcare. The Creche Workers immediately met Pujarani and suggested her to send the child to creches. However, initially, she didn’t agree to send the girl to the crèche. But the workers of the crèche gave their complete effort to motivate her mother. At this point the AWW of the village also joined the Creche Workers in motivating Pujarani. After being convinced, she started to send her child into the crèche.
In the creches, the trained creche workers provided her the nutritious food and intensive childcare. However, being too weak and undernourished her appetite had come drastically down and the digestive system was already compromised. Instead of showing improvements, day by day her health started deteriorating. Then, the crèche workers with the help of the crèche supervisor informed this situation to the AWW (Anganwadi Worker), ASHA, and RBSK (Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram) team of the area. Being informed, the RBSK members immediately visited the creche, checked her condition where she was identified as a SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition) child. Then, after discussing the health risks Harapriya was associated with, with her mother, she was soon admitted at the nearest NRC (Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre) for medical intervention.
After staying 15 days at the NRC, she was discharged for home. With proper treatment and care the child’s health and nutrition status had, by then, improved significantly. Once back to the home, she was taken to the creche centre where she spent nearly 8 hours every day, got nutritious meals thrice a day, and was given intensive childcare. On top of it, the stimulating activities in the creches were quite supportive in the child getting back to a good start in life, again. Her mother was also counselled on the support and care Harapriya required at home by the Creche Workers and the AWW and ASHA worker.
Within 2 months the child not just got back all her normal health and showing improvements in all vital parameters of life. Her weight had increased, appetite was back to normal, free from any illnesses and infections and cognitively doing well. Psychological research shows that living in poverty is associated with differences in structural and functional brain development in children and adolescents in areas related to cognitive processes that are critical for learning, communication, and academic achievement, including social-emotional processing, memory, language, and executive functioning. And in this case, the crèche has given a new life to Harapriya and a new path for her future.