Healthcare & Nutrition

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In different parts of India, we work relentlessly to ensure that children grow up healthy and enjoy a happy childhood.

Even today, 11.2 lakh children in India die before their fifth birthday. Every 25 seconds, a child under five years of age dies mostly due to preventable causes such as infections and malnutrition.

It’s this utterly sad situation which firms our resolve to provide robust health and nutrition benefits to children and save lives. Almost 50% of our work for children caters to the Health & Nutrition needs of children. In different states of India, we’re passionately working to improve the health and nutrition status of newborns, mothers, and expecting women with special focus on those coming from the most disadvantaged communities.

Following are the areas we work in: 
  • Child Survival
  • Newborn Health
  • Maternal Health
  • Nutrition
  • Health and Nutrition of Children Affected by Emergencies and Natural Disaster
  • WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Healthcare Which Saves Lives 

We go by the mantra that No Child is Born to Die. That is why we have projects in several states of India which are aimed at increasing the chances of survival of children between the ages of 0-5 years, reducing levels of malnutrition among them and improving newborn and maternal health. For example, through Project Karuna, we have been helping malnourished children in rural Varanasi leave behind a life of malnutrition and become healthy. In the urban slums of Delhi, we run Mobile Health Units which take healthcare to the doorsteps of the urban poor.

Through ‘Stop Diarrhoea Initiative’, we are tackling diarrhoea (the second biggest killer of children under 5) and related issues among the most vulnerable children in the urban slums of Delhi and rural areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

In 2019, 85,216 lakh children benefitted through our healthcare programmes.

In all of this, we engage heavily with the local community. We work towards  disseminating the message of the importance of maintaing good personal health and hygiene, for themselves and for their children. We collaborate with state- and district-level government authorities, schools and Aanganwadi Centres. The Community Health Workers (CHWs) we train and work with form the backbone of our healthcare initiatives. To improve the hygiene and nutrition behaviour of the communities we work with and to inculcate the habits of healthy living, are among the ultimate aims of all our Health & Nutrition programmes. 

The problems

There is a direct link between poverty and ill health. Slum dwellers are at risk from a wide range of health problems and when they become ill they are often reluctant to seek treatment. Fear, ignorance or a lack of money to pay for healthcare can all cause them to suffer in silence. Poor health causes them to miss work, creating new financial problems. Increased poverty further endangers their health and that of their families, and the cycle continues.

Poor environmental conditions and a lack of awareness mean that preventable diseases are rife in a typical slum

Slum dwellers’ lack of education prevents them from protecting themselves against disease. A high proportion of children are malnourished and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Very few children are vaccinated against preventable diseases.

Malaria, typhoid, cholera and TB all thrive in slum conditions. Poor sanitation and hygiene cause diarrhoea that is deadly when people – most often children – become dehydrated. Local “quacks” act as unqualified doctors, giving health advice or medicine that can be more dangerous than the original problem.

Asha’s solutions

TBA Savitri 009It’s hard to find all the people with health problems in slums unless you live there. Asha has trained women who live in slums to work as Community Health Volunteers, or CHVs. They are ideally placed to keep a watchful eye on the health of their communities – particularly pregnant women, the elderly, children under 5 and TB patients.

 Asha provides 6 months of training and then equips the women with a medical box so they can provide first aid, give oral rehydration solution for diarrhoea, and treat bacterial infections and other common ailments. They give advice on health and nutrition, and encourage people to immunise their children and consider family planning methods. If someone needs further information or treatment, CHVs refer them to an Asha clinic.

Jeewan Nagar 180313 031Many Asha slum areas have a health centre staffed by part-time doctors, nurses and paramedical staff. They are able to diagnose and treat patients, perform ante-natal checks and immunise children against preventable diseases. Mobile clinics enable slums without an Asha health centre to receive an equally high level of care.

For further healthcare, the Asha polyclinic has a sophisticated laboratory, ECG and X-ray equipment among many other facilities. A doctor and visiting consultants provide an excellent level of service at a fraction of what patients would pay elsewhere. In addition, Asha staff and CHVs have developed links with local hospitals and health institutions so patients can be referred whenever they need treatment not available at the polyclinic.

ultrasound 007Asha’s multi-level healthcare system results in reduced child mortality, fewer maternal deaths, better nutrition, a lower birthrate and virtual eradication of preventable diseases. Entire communities become healthier, an important factor in reducing poverty.

Asha works hard to bring health-related information to slum communities on a wider scale, too. Public meetings, dramas, rallies and immunisation drives all heighten awareness and make people more likely to seek treatment for health problems.