Four year old Dayamoni, lives in a remote village in the district of Purulia. This is one of the most backward areas of the country and Dayamoni’s family is one of the many socio-economically underprivileged families that live here. Hazari Mahato, Dayamoni’s father works as a manual labour and her mother, Parboti is a house wife. Hazari is a daily wage worker and his income rarely fulfils the family’s needs.

In July of 2013, Dayamoni was identified as severely malnourished; her condition commonly referred to as SAM (Severe Acute Malnourishment). The Anganwadi worker and CARE staff working on the BRIDDHI project, found that Dayamoni weighed only 9.8 kilograms and she was born with low birth weight as well. The child had been suffering from various ailments and problems since birth.

Hygiene standards at home were also extremely poor, the house ceiling was thatched, and rooms did not have proper ventilation. The house did not have any toilets, and anyone who needed to use one, had to go out in the open. The family did not maintain proper bodily sanitation either. For example, they hardly ever trimmed their nails or used soap to wash their hands, not even before meals.  All of these factors contributed to Dayamoni constantly complaining of stomach ailments and erratic bowel movements.

To make matters worse, in 2012, Dayamoni got hit by a bullock cart and hurt herself. She fractured her hip and was treated by a practitioner who had no formal training in the field.  As a result Dayamoni never really recovered from the injury.

The BRIDDHI staff and the local Anganwadi worker made several visits to Dayamoni’s house to try and persuade her parents to enrol their daughter into a Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), so as to save her from succumbing to her declining condition. The rehabilitation centre was about 25 kilometres away from the village, and taking Dayamoni there would require the father to forego his income for the day.

After being diagnosed with SAM, it took the CARE team three months to convince Dayamoni’s family to take her to Purulia for nutritional rehabilitation. Finally, in October the child was admitted to the centre, and for the 21 days that followed, she went through intensive health checks. She was also treated for her broken hip.

At the Centre, Dayamoni was fed adequate amount of food and at the right time. She was taught to maintain personal hygiene by following practices such as brushing twice a day, using soap to wash hands, bathing regularly, and trimming nails were also stressed upon. She was even taught to wear slippers if she was leaving the house.  

Parboti, her mother, was counselled and informed of the kind of food that was to be fed to Dayamoni on her release from the centre.  Her counselling included being taught various cooking techniques that helped maintain the nutritional value of food. She was also advised to ensure sanitation around the house.

The family began to follow healthier practices as advised, and the constant vigilance by the ASHA, Anganwadi and BRIDDHI staff helped Dayamoni gain weight and overcome her nutritional deficiencies. Dayamoni’s diet was taken special care of; she was fed more nutritious food such as chilka, omelette with lots of vegetables, barfi and soya-dal.

Today, Dayamoni is a happy and healthy child who weighs over 11 kgs, and do the normal things which other children her age spend their time on.

A small but concerted intervention made by the BRIDDHI staff of CARE India, and social health workers, in the life of the Mahato family resulted in a better life for their little girl. Several other families around them are now on their way to change their current beliefs and perception, and welcome healthier practices and food habits for their children.

Sreeparna Ghosh Mukherjee and Anamitra Dasgupta