Tag Archives: support group

Saving a Severely Malnourished Child

Ajay was born on August 20, 2011 in a village outside of Kolkata. Sadly, his mother died shortly after childbirth, and he was sent to be raised by an aunt, also in the village, who had two other children. Over time, Ajay grew malnourished and his aunt was unable to provide proper care for him. In late 2011, he was sent to live with another aunt named Pramila in Fakir Bagan, where we work. Pramila has been married for many years, but has never had any children of her own.

Ajay and Pramila in late January, 2012

Pramila learned about Calcutta Kids and on Friday, January 20, she brought Ajay in for his first immunizations at five months old. Our triage nurse was quickly alarmed; his distended stomach, loosely hanging skin, bulging eyes, skinny limbs, and lethargy made her nervous about the inoculation. Weighing in at 3.79kg (~8.4lbs), he had a weight-for-age Z-score (WAZ) of -5.392, which was off the growth charts in the severely malnourished category. Bringing him to the attention of our health workers and doctor, Ajay received a thorough examination and a counseling and nutrition plan began. Ajay’s dirty bottle and diluted cow’s milk were replaced with clean bottles and newborn formula. Thankfully, he was hungry and eager to recover.

Starting the following Monday, Pramila brought Ajay to the Swastha Kendra (health center) daily for supervised feeding of Ajay. CK mothers are always encouraged to exclusively breastfeed, but in this case, without a lactating mother and with the severity of Ajay’s malnutrition, formula became the only viable option. Thanks to generous donors, CK supplies Ajay with all of his formula, which is expensive but critical to his growth. Almost immediately, we also started complementing his formula feeding with kicheri (lentils, rice and vegetables), which he ate well. Our community health workers conducted regular home visits to make sure that feedings were successful in the home. By February 1, Ajay weighed 4.5kg (~9.9lbs), and had a WAZ of -4.49. Making great progress, he was looking healthier and had more energy.

Ajay in late February, 2012

Pramila was also taken in by our mother’s support group. They were eager to help her, and invited her to attend their meetings. At one meeting, they taught Pramila various ways to make household ingredients into baby food. As a first-time mother of a very fragile child, the women in the support group also took the initiative to visit her and make sure she had what she needed. On March 1 he weighed 5.7kg (~12.6lbs) and had a WAZ of -3.633. His cheeks and limbs were starting to fill out, he was able to roll over on his own, and his smile could light up a room.

Ajay and Pramila in late March, 2012

Ajay and Pramila have continued coming to Swastha Kendra 2-3 days per week for counseling and food. On March 20, two months after Ajay’s first visit to Calcutta Kids, he weighed 5.97kg (~13.2 lbs) with a WAZ of -2.95, and was officially out of the “severely malnourished” category. Throughout the whole process, Pramila has worked very hard, heeding the counsel of Calcutta Kids, and has expressed her gratitude for our programs.

Ajay and Pramila in late March, 2012

Sitting in Swastha Kendra, I am fortunate to be able to see Ajay and Pramila regularly, observing the feeding, assessing his progress, and enjoying their company. The transformation in this sweet child over these 2+ months has been remarkable to witness. Thanks to the great work of Calcutta Kids, he continues to grow well, and is reaching both physical and developmental milestones. – Margy Elliott, Fellow, American India Foundation

Mothers Find Strength in Support Group

Mothers share best practices for preparing complementary foods

Although Calcutta Kids has a very close relationship with the women and children of Fakir Bagan, our efforts in community mobilization have been limited. Community meetings are held for pregnant women and mothers of young children, but these meetings are largely lecture style with information being given by our health workers. Our goal in organizing a women’s support group was to create a completely different type of forum, where women would come together as friends to support each other and discuss issues that are relevant to them in their daily lives. They would lead the direction of the group and decide what activities they would like to carry out for themselves and within the community. When we started our first women’s support group in mid-November, we had no idea what to expect as we sat on the mat and waited for the women to appear. One by one they came- Rekha, Santi, Sakuntala, Fulo, Rakhi, Priyanka, Sova, and Urmila, their young children in tow. As they sat on the mat, we offered tea and biscuits and asked mothers to introduce themselves to each other. Sumana, the program coordinator, explained about support groups and asked them to think about whether they were interested in forming such a group.

The women were hesitant at first, but with some encouragement from Sumana, they began chatting with each other about themselves and where they had come from. The discussion then turned to their opinions about Fakir Bagan. A few positives were mentioned: “We like being close to a school and close to shops.” One woman mentioned that she enjoyed celebrations like Durga Puja in Fakir Bagan. The majority of discussion centered on negative views: “We don’t like the water here. We don’t like the filth. Every time it rains it floods and water comes into our homes. It makes life very difficult. When this happens, the children get sick- diarrhea and vomiting. The toilets are disgusting and no one cleans after they use. It makes us feel sick to use the toilet.” Most of their concerns related to health, hygiene, and sanitation, but they all perceived a lack of community feeling in Fakir Bagan: “People only think about themselves. In our area people don’t help each other out.”

At the end of our meeting, the women told us that they enjoyed getting together and learning from each other, but most importantly they liked the idea of becoming a support group and becoming friends. Our senior health workers were very excited by this ‘different kind of meeting’, where women were able to speak and get to know each other instead of only sharing information with the health workers. As women were able to express their feelings, health workers were able to learn how they feel. At Calcutta Kids, these meetings are the first step in our community mobilization effort, and we hope that the group will encourage community-based initiatives that will help improve the quality of life in Fakir Bagan. – Danya Sarkar