National, April 2022- During anaemia screening tests over the past two years for tribal women, Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of Sundaram Clayton and TVS Motor Company, observed that a significant number of tribal women and children were anaemic. This formidable concern has led to an unhealthy lifestyle amongst the communities, but it is increasingly affecting the children with inadequate nutrition. In addition, there is a high dependency on drugs and tobacco. Another problematic issue includes the early marriage of the girls, while the men are often laidback and do not take responsibility for their children’s health and education.
It is vital to emphasise women’s physical and mental well-being, who play the critical role of being health managers or promoters of the family’s overall health. Srinivasan Services trust initiated nutrition projects in 10 tribal villages in collaboration with district administration to improve women’s and children’s health as part of its continuous endeavour to support sustainable development in rural communities. Through this project, SST decided to supply dry traditional nutrition items, consisting of Ragi, Samai, Thenai, Groundnut, and Kambu at every 15 days up to 12 months. With the help of the Health Department and ICDS workers, SST also ensured that the HB level of all the women above 12 years was checked and recorded along with the height and weight of all the children aged between 1 and 12 years.
Following a detailed discussion with the Collector of Nilgiris in January 2021 about the nutrition project for the tribal community’s women and children, the following points were implemented:
- Provide dry nutrition kits to all tribal women and children on a priority basis, as they were severely malnourished.
- The Collector ensured that the ICDS and the Health Department checked all beneficiaries’ haemoglobin levels and weights. These tests were repeated every six months for all beneficiaries to assess the impact of nutrition supplements provided to them through this project.
- A facilitator was appointed in each village from the same community to monitor the beneficiaries’ regular intake of nutritious food. They also ensured that the beneficiaries adapt to and embrace millet consumption, as well as cultivate millets on their own, by creating community gardens.
- The facilitator identified to be given health-related training regularly to raise awareness among the women.
- The Collector also suggested that the nutrition supplement be delivered to their doorstep once a fortnight and monitored.
The tribal families were issued with a nutrition kit in coordination with District Administration. A demonstration on cooking different recipes with the traditional food grain millet was also done with the help of Anganwadi workers in Odakolli tribal village in RDO, BMO, BDOs, ICDS workers, and Panchayat authorities.
The facilitators for this project followed up with each family identified and ensured that the nutrition provided was used regularly. Being a female from the same village, the facilitator motivated and created awareness on health & hygiene. Also, the women were trained to cook different recipes to become a regular practice. The volunteer proposed for each village to take care of women and children every day and ensured consumption of nutrition regularly. The tribal women sustained the healthy food practice even after the intervention was over after one year. It motivated the cultivation practice of traditional millet products and so far, 21 rounds of nutrition kits have been distributed at 15-day intervals. Following each effort, there has been a significant improvement in their consumption of nutritious foods and the essential understanding of health hygiene. There has been growing awareness in the tribal community to refrain from using drugs and tobacco and begin cultivation practice on a smaller scale.
After the migration, a recheck of HB levels for women and weight measurements for children were taken and recorded from accessible tribal households. Following the implementation of this pilot project in February 2021, an intermediate survey was conducted in September by visiting each family door to door to assess progress. In this survey, an external medical agency was used to recheck the HB level and weight of the identified beneficiaries. So far, this activity has covered 97 women and 71 children in Gudalur and 152 women and 59 children in Kotagiri.
From February 2021 to September 2021, 18% of women have improved overall health parameters in 5 villages of the Gudalur and Kotagiri cluster. The villagers are happy with the results. There has been a significant health improvement in the children as well.