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Mitigating impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on child nutrition among tribal, high migration communities of South Rajasthan

Campaign by Basic Health Care Services

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Story

Rural communities in southern Rajasthan comprise of high proportion of tribal populations living in scattered and poorly accessible habitations. The population lives in abject poverty and sees large-scale male migration to cities in Gujarat, Maharashtra and other states. In their absence the entire household responsibility passes on to women and in dealing with the multiple chores- farming, tending to livestock, getting firewood and cooking, childcare is often severely compromised. Young children are left in the care of older siblings, grandparents, or at times even by themselves.  

Diets in the region comprise of mainly cereals with very small amounts of pulses, vegetables, oils or foods of animal origin. All these factors contribute to high levels of malnutrition among children- a study we conducted in the region has shown that 33% children under 3 are wasted with 9% being severely wasted; as many as 55% of their mothers are also undernourished (P Mohan, EPW, 2016).

BHS runs day-care centres called the phulwaris (meaning a bed of flowers) for young children, which provide a nurturing environment, nutritious food, and engagement and play for cognitive development. Currently, 13 phulwaris operate in very remote and entirely tribal communities in southern Rajasthan providing care and nutrition to nearly 400 children under 5. The value and impact of the phulwaris is very clearly seen with enrolled children showing significant improvement in their nutritional status and clearly seem more alert and playful. The centres have also helped draw attention of the community to childcare and nutrition, and promote linkages with AMRIT Clinics, primary healthcare facilities operating close to the phulwaris

Before the phulwari had started in our village, I would leave my children at home and go to the field. I would be worried about their safety and would keep coming back to check on them. Since the phulwari has started, I am able to leave them comfortably knowing that they are getting good care. The phulwari has also helped me work in NREGA for many days. 

 - Mother of 2 children coming to Sadawat fala phulwari 

The phulwaris are playing an important role in supporting nutrition of young children in remote, tribal communities in southern Rajasthan. The COVID pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have led to loss of livelihoods, shrinking of wages, and a steep decline in food availability. We are seeing its’ impact in terms of worsening levels of childhood malnutrition. In view of the overall situation of the economy, we are preparing for a prolonged decline in food availability and also continuing high levels of malnutrition. 


The value of the phulwaris in the pandemic times is more than ever before. We have now expanded the coverage of the phulwaris to include all children under-5 (covering about 400 children) in their catchment area. We have also resumed the monthly weighing and nutrition education sessions for all children in the neighborhood of the phulwaris, and are now reaching nearly 1000 young children from very poor families. Additionally, the phulwaris have played a role in promoting kitchen gardens and poultry in the hamlets.  

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The wonderful work that your support made possible!

We are very happy to present an update for this valuable fundraiser and share the remarkable progress made by our Phulwaris in the last year: 

Throughout the pandemic, the Phulwaris have continued to provide nutritious food for tribal children living in far flung villages in Udaipur. This has helped maintain the children’s nutritional status: a recent analysis showed that the risk of malnutrition in phulwari children is half of what we see in the community - Delivering for Nutrition in South Asia - Thematic Session 2: Disruptions, Restorations, and Adaptions to Nutrition and Health Interventions During COVID-19


  • The phulwari workers were able to remove a lot of the fear and clear the mis-information circulating in the communities, first regarding COVID infection and later on regarding vaccination. Their continued care and the community's trust helped tackle this difficult situation!  
  • In April- June 2021, when the COVID 2nd wave was at its peak and village after village were affected, people were very fearful of going out of their villages and seeking care. Our workers were able to provide medicine kits to the affected people, also check for the severity, and counsel them for home care. In each village there were at least 10-15 affected people. This care provided much relief to those affected with COVID, and clearly helped arrest the progression of the disease to its’ severe form.
  • The phulwaris are now open again. The closure for many months has affected the learning and knowledge of the children a lot. See what many of the parents have said to us:
  • “My child could recite so many poems earlier. He has forgotten them all.”
  • “Earlier my children would stay in the phulwari the whole day and learn so many things. Now they keep roaming around all day.”

To bring back our children’s interest, we have expanded our focus on early child education. We have trained our phulwari teams in engaging with the children using local resources, their own learned experiences, and in the local dialect. See how much the workers and the children look to be enjoying these :-)

  • We have also opened up one more phulwari, in a far-off village, from where the community members came to us and asked us to start one, so that “the children there can also get the care which those in the other phulwaris are receiving”.


Your love and support made it possible for us to do this all, and more. Thank you for thinking of us, and of the children in these far-away villages.

Wishing you and your family and friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Team BHS.

Organisers
Basic Health Care Services

Basic Health Care Services

Beneficiary Charity

Pranoti Monde

Pranoti Monde

Organiser

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