Manita Saves a Life in Rural Jharkhand

One year into my role as CEO at the American India Foundation, I continue to be inspired by the generosity of our supporters, and the impact of their donations on the ground. Today, I was inspired to write about how their support helped to save the life of a baby boy named Jagat, who was born preterm this August in tribal Jharkhand, a state in India. Jagat was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was not moving and could not cry. If it weren’t for the swift and capable action of Community Health Worker Manita Devi, he probably would never have taken his first breath.

Using the tools and training she received from AIF’s Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI), Manita immediately untangled the umbilical cord from Jagat’s tiny neck. She used the mucus extractor in her Home-Based Newborn Care kit to clean his nasal passages. Within seconds he was crying and Manita knew he would survive the night. She was relieved but remained vigilant. Like all MANSI-trained Community Health Workers, Manita made regular visits to the family’s home to track the health of the baby and mother.

Across India each year, over 700,000 mothers watch helplessly as their child dies from preventable causes. In hard to reach places like rural Jharkhand, Community Health Workers are the only link families in their village have to quality care. When they are empowered, well-trained and confident, babies like Jagat have a fair chance for a healthy start in life.

MANSI builds the capacity of Community Health Workers by training, mentoring and equipping them with tools and support. Our model has seen powerful results; during the MANSI pilot in Jharkhand, neonatal mortality went down by 46%, child mortality by 44%, and infant mortality by 39%. Five years later, we’ve scaled MANSI up to serve 2.14 million people across four states in India.

There is so much more to do. Our goal is to expand MANSI to serve millions more, saving tens of thousands of babies’ lives, and improving the health of many more girls and women. We hope you join us as we embark on this bold mission together.

Nishant Pandey is the CEO of the American India Foundation (AIF). In this capacity, Nishant provides strategic leadership to AIF’s operations spanning the US and India.

Nishant began his career as a banker but soon realised that development sector was his calling. He joined a global charity called Oxfam as the Programme Officer for South India where he designed and developed value-chain programmes on the theme of ‘power in markets’. Subsequently, he moved Oxfam’s global HQ in Oxford to lead on programme development and management in 12 countries including Russia, Tajikistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Albania, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Jordon. In his work on Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area and its impact on small farmers in European neighbourhood, he demonstrated a rare ability to link high-level policy with community-focussed projects on the ground and was soon given the opportunity to lead the entire policy and campaigns portfolio for Oxfam in the region. Before moving back to India as AIF’s Country Director, Nishant was based in Jerusalem where he had one of the most complex and challenging assignments as Oxfam’s Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Nishant lives with his wife, Nupur, and son, Abeer, in New York City.

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