New Delhi: In Alwar’s Machadi village little children make their way cheerfully to a bright yellow building. It is the anganwadi centre which is being run by the government of Rajasthan in partnership with the Tata Trust. As the children line up, the anganwadi workers make them wash their hands first before allowing them to enter the premises.
At the entrance is a Tippy Tippy Tap, it is an improvised hand wash centre which also doubles up to entertain the children. A small jerry can is hung from a wooden stick placed horizontally. The jerry can have perforations and when the children work a foot lever to tilt it towards them, it spouts water like a shower.
The Tippy Tippy Tap is entertaining and the children enjoy operating it themselves, but through the Tippy Tippy Tap they also learn their first lesson, to wash their hands properly.
If the first step to good health is cleanliness, then the next step is the nutritious diet. The menu here is clearly also a big draw for the tots here.
‘What do you eat?’ We ask them.
‘Daliya and khichadee,’ they chant in unison.
The anganwadi centre meant for pre-schoolers from 0 to 6 years is the first interface between the government’s health outreach programme and the rural population. The angawandi workers track the height and weight of children from 0 to 6 years to ensure children are not malnourished.
Traditional mindsets are changing as anganwadi workers tell mothers that children even babies as young as six months need to start having semi-solid food, as breast milk alone is not enough. Sunita, an anganwadi workers says,
First there was no limit to breastfeeding, it went on for years now we say once the child is six months old he needs solid food, so attitudes are changing.
Babita, a mother is busy feeding her baby at the anganwadi centre, she says,
It has made a very big difference my coming here, ” she adds, “Earlier children in this village would not be able to walk until they were two years old, now they are healthier and we all give semi-solid food in addition to breast milk once the baby is 6 months, you can see the difference.
The collaboration with the Tata Trust is definitely a value addition to this crucial first step to health in villages. Dr Bhagwati Prasad of the Tata Trust says,
We serve to fill the gaps. We refurbished this building. The health workers were already very trained, but we added to their skills, so this kind of public private patnership supports the government.
To maintain malnutrition and health charts, an app on the smartphone has been devised that tracks all the children and pregnant mothers in the village from nutrition to immunisation, through its valuable tools that help health workers in villages like these. Another face lift to the programme a bright and newly painted anganwadi building with a catchy slogan which the children chant,
‘Chalo chalo anaganwadi chalo’ (Come come let’s go to the health centre)
It is small tweaks in the government’s health and nutrition outreach like these which give an initiative an edge and help in effectively spread the message of good health and cleanliness in places like rural Rajasthan.