Baby steps

Working for Calcutta Kids is really amazing. As an organization, CK will go to just about any length to ensure their four objectives: the no mothers or children die; that no mothers or children suffer from disease; that children have a healthy birth weight; and that children grow according to WHO standards. Calcutta Kids is achieving these objectives on a daily basis, as health workers counsel during home visits for preventative care practices; on a weekly basis at our immunization camp and through mothers support groups; and on a monthly basis through growth monitoring and promotion. Pregnant women, mothers and children also have access to our clinic, complete with a female doctor following IMNCI protocol. Mothers have noticed that their children who complete CK programs are stronger, healthier, and reaching developmental milestones quicker than their children who may have grown up without CK services.

Ajay, two weeks after his initial visit

I have been fortunate to work closely with one child in particular, and witness first hand the life-saving interventions of Calcutta Kids. Ajay was born in a village outside of Kolkata in August 2011, and his mother died shortly after childbirth. He was sent to live with an aunt in the village, but with children and responsibilities of her own, the aunt was unable to care for him. Ajay arrived in Kolkata in January to live with another aunt who lives in Fakir Bagan. She did not have any children prior to Ajay, but heard about Calcutta Kids and brought him in for our Friday immunizations. At intake, our nurse was quickly alarmed. At five months old, with no previous immunizations, and being fed diluted cows milk out of a dirty bottle, Ajay weighed 3.7kgs (about 8 pounds). Suffering from malnutrition, with a distended belly and skin hanging from his frail arms and legs, Ajay felt like a tiny newborn.

Recognizing the difficult situation for this brand new mother raising a very frail infant in the slum, Calcutta Kids developed an integrated intervention to help Ajay survive and grow. Daily, Ajay’s mother brings him into Swastha Kendra (our health clinic) for supervised complementary feeding, and a supply of high-calorie, nutrient-rich formula. Community Health Workers visit his home every other day including weekends, to ensure that the home has the necessary supplies, cleanliness and attention needed to keep Ajay alive.

Spending time with Ajay while his mother learns to make complementary foods with women in the support group

Our support group of mothers of malnourished children also wrapped their arms around Ajay’s mother, inviting her to the weekly meetings, teaching her how to make baby food out of household ingredients, providing emotional support and advice, and checking in on her regularly. Ajay has received his immunizations, participates in growth monitoring, and his mother receives regular counseling from the doctor and staff.

Nearly four short weeks after Ajay’s initial arrival at Calcutta Kids, he has gained over 1 kg. It has been a joy to spend time each week with this bright-eyed child and his mother. When he arrived, it was a struggle for him to hold up his head or grip my finger; he is now able to rollover, hold up his head, stand (assisted), hold on tight, and kick his legs. Ajay’s mother has also grown, learning how to feed him, care for him, and is working hard to provide a good environment for him to be strong.

Calcutta Kids’ interventions are small, but extremely powerful. I’m grateful to be a small part of an organization that is doing huge things for this community. I’m grateful to have been able to witness the life-saving transformation of a sweet child because of basic public health interventions.

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2 thoughts on “Baby steps

  1. Thanks for this update Margy. there is something to be said about the power that small interventions that target specific communities make. Replication and scalabilitiy are important, but sometimes when organizations are focusing solely on those goals, they miss the human connection. Thanks for keeping us to close to it.

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