When a mother takes charge

When a mother takes charge

Story by : Welthungerhilfe staff
Written on : 5th December, 2018

Urmila Devi lives in Parasboni – a remote village of Jharkhand. Her husband Puran Rai shuttles between cultivating rice, maize and potato on their one-acre land and working as a labour in a grocery store during the months of adequate household food provisioning (MAHFP). With her three children and husband, Urmila Devi rather seemed to be leading a usual life until she found out that her youngest daughter Saraswati was severely malnourished.  

At 28 months of age, Saraswati weighed only 7.4 kg. It was then when Urmila decided to be part of the ‘Positive Deviance’ camp with a hope to revive her daughter’s health. Positive Deviance is a 15-day nutrition camp organised by Welthungerhilfe’s partner organisation Pravah which helps children to come out of the malnutrition cycle and educates parents especially the mother on right consumption practices and dietary habits.

Being part of the camp, Urmila Devi learnt about a lot of issues which were previously unknown to her. Her active participation in the camp helped her bring Saraswati to a normal grade as per her age and weight and thereby helped in leading a healthy life for her as well as her family.

Besides many other things which she learnt, she was particularly overwhelmed with the concept of nutrition kitchen garden. She showed special interest in ‘Tiranga bhojan‘ – a concept which promotes dietary diversity by cultivating different seasonal crops. Urmila now cultivates both pulses and vegetables replacing the mono cropping she and her husband practiced earlier.

Urmila Devi next to her nutrition kitchen garden

Urmila Devi also focusses on the sanitation aspect in her village as she is now aware about the importance of clean sanitation facilities in keeping Saraswati and all other children of the village healthy and well nourished. She urged the village sanitation committee to keep the village clean and create proper drainage systems. She also took up the issue of building soak pits to help the village keep away from smell and diseases. Urmila, supported by Pravah, joined hands with the Jal Sahelis – select members of the Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) to build soak pits in the village. Local communities in Parasboni village now lauds Urmila’s efforts in keeping their village clean and the children healthy. Pravah also appreciates her inner spark of change which is altering many lives from the hand of severe diseases. Urmila Devi is one of many such individuals who have been supported and empowered under the ‘Promotion of Sanitation Health Agriculture and Natural resource for Nutrition (POSHANN)’ programme. Initiated in Jharkhand in 2018, the programme contributes towards improved nutrition and health of women and children from vulnerable and food insecure families of the backward districts of Jharkhand, India. The efforts strengthen efficacy of the multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach towards improving nutritional outcomes in Jharkhand. Organising the 15-day nutrition camp is one of the important element of the programme. This camp involves health screening of all children registered under the Anganwadi Centres, providing nutrition counselling for mothers, distributing nutritious food to malnourished children, discussing pre-natal care and ante-natal care of a pregnant lady and lactating mothers, educating mothers on hygiene practices, malnutrition cycle and benefits of immunization. 

Urmila Devi with her daughter Saraswati