With the Maternal and Young Child Health Initiative (MYCHI), Calcutta Kids works within the community to empower the local population to understand the importance of maternal and child health. The MYCHI provides vital resources to facilitate healthy pregnancy, healthy mothers, and healthy children 0-3 years old. As a result of preventive and curative care, health education and counseling, and immunizations, Calcutta Kids anticipates the following benefits of providing their services to the targeted population:
-Decreased maternal and child mortality
-Increase in average birth weight
-Decreased incidence of maternal morbidity
-Decreased child morbidity including respiratory tract infections, diarrheal illness, and vaccine preventable diseases
-Decreased malnutrition, and decreased prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies
The women we seek to serve will benefit from a more robust local awareness of maternal and child health best practices and so will the community with whom the women share their knowledge. The anticipated benefits of MYCHI will be instrumental in empowering urban poor mothers achieve optimum health outcomes, and urban poor children with the opportunity to experience gains in cognitive, social, and health development similar to those of their economically better off peers.
Have we made a difference? In the past six years, maternal and child health outcomes have changed for the better. So far the results are encouraging- we have already made a positive difference in the lives of mothers and children in Fakir Bagan. On the surface, positive change is apparent in the health seeking behaviors of families in Fakir Bagan who are utilizing responsibly the medical services available to them. It can also be seen in the growing community involvement, with large numbers of women now actively participating in Calcutta Kids activities despite the time constraints on their demanding lives. But most important accomplishments can be seen in the changing health statistics. In the past five years, the number of women accessing institutional delivery has increased dramatically. From 67% institutional deliveries at baseline in 2005, we now have a 90% facility delivery rate. Seventy percent of women initiated breastfeeding within 2 hours (compared to 8% in 2005); 90% women fed colostrum to the newborn (compared to 28% in 2005) and 88% did not give a pre-lacteal feed to their newborn.*
Infants are being born much healthier as a result of the intensive maternal health initiative which provides essential services to their mothers. The best measure of this is birth weight. In 2005, the average birth weight in Fakir Bagan was an abysmal 1.8 kg and is now 2.8 kg in 2011. (Low birth weight is defined as under 2.5 kg.) Seventy two percent of women gave birth to babies with birth weight greater than 2.5 kg, and 41% of women gave birth to babies with birth weight greater than 3 kg.*
Indicators have also shown improvement in children’s nutritional status. In October 2009, of children 0-3 years old in Fakir Bagan (based on weight for age), 33.3% were normal, 32.7% were mildly, 21.6 % moderately, and 12.3% severely malnourished. Over the next two years, severe malnutrition rate has fallen by more than half. In November 2011, statistics from GMP showed that 34.6 % were normal, 38.2 % mild, 21.7 % moderate, and only 5.5 % severe. *
Such drastic improvements would not have been possible for our dedicated staff (especially our hard-working and passionate field staff) and the women and children of Fakir Bagan who have been participating so enthusiastically in our programs. Perhaps the most telling indication of Calcutta Kid’s positive change is reflected by the words of women in the community. One woman recently said in a community meeting, “My second baby (who received Calcutta Kids services) is quicker in doing all things, like standing, crawling, walking…..than my first child who was born before Calcutta Kids came to Fakir Bagan.” Another woman remarked, “Because Calcutta Kids is here, our children are becoming more ‘chalak’ (intelligent) – we can no longer keep them in the house, they want to go out, walk, and explore.”
At Calcutta Kids, we are determined to achieve even better health outcomes and to ensure that every pregnant woman, every mother, and every child is able to achieve ‘the highest attainable standard of health, one of the fundamental rights of every human being’.* In 2001, a report by WHO recognized that “the failure to address preventable maternal disability and death represents one of the greatest social injustices of our times” and that “women’s reproductive health risks are not mere misfortunes and unavoidable natural disadvantages of pregnancy but, rather, injustices that societies are able and obligated to remedy.” We will continue to fight this injustice faced by urban poor women, and ensure that women in Fakir Bagan experience a safe and successful pregnancy with healthy delivery outcomes.
Our mission will continue based on the empirical evidence that the major damage caused by malnutrition takes place in utero and during the first two years of life, that this damage is irreversible, that it causes lower intelligence and reduced physical capacity, which in turn reduce productivity, slow economic growth, and perpetuates poverty. We need to break the cycle of malnutrition, and our focus will be on preventing and treating malnutrition among pregnant women and children 0-3 years old. We will strive to further reduce the incidence of low birth weight and work to ensure that all children 0-3 years old are growing normally in order to reach their full physical and cognitive potential. In the near future, Calcutta Kids envisions that we will be able to explore ways to replicate our successful activities and programs into other contexts, particularly other urban poor areas in India.