Breathing New Life
Congratulations! The baby has arrived! A quick dab of honey on the child’s tongue – it’s the grandmother’s prerogative - and laddoos for friends and relatives. Celebrations all round! Joys, hopes, fears … an emotional roller coaster ride to be sure. Time simply flies with the little one around. But will the little one be around to blow out the candle on her first Birthday?
For 4 out of 100 babies the answer is NO. Some don’t even survive the first month. Death rates among children in the first month, year and five years are known as Neo-Natal Mortality (NNMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Child Mortality Rate (CMR). These are numbers to analyse for demographers, targets to achieve for planners, but heartbreak for parents who have lost a child. In a survey of 400 working couples, amongst migrant labour at construction sites, Mobile Creches discovered that one out of every ten mothers had lost a young child. This was way beyond the 4% national IMR.
It is a harsh reality – there are real stories behind the cold numbers and ample evidence that the incidence is disproportionately on the poor - emerging from a complex web of factors. Poverty, the status of women, the state of health infrastructure, and the overall neglect of children in practice and policy, conspire to keep our children deprived of care, safety, nutrition, health and hygiene. The numbers are mere indicators.
The World has set development goals for itself. Leaders are taking pledges to tackle pressing issues like corruption, gender inequality, end preventable deaths, fight against climate change and make this World a better place to live. In 2015, 5.9 million children under-5 died, across the globe. Action plan is being made to end the preventable deaths of Newborns and under – 5 by 2030. It is not a lot of time and the challenge is huge.
So, where do we begin? A logical starting point would be the mother and child.
Mobile Creches in Action
We, at Mobile Creches (MC), realized way back in 1969, that all mothers are working mothers: working inside the home or outside of it. And this was especially true of families living in poverty, who, no matter the Below-Poverty-Line definitions, account for 70% of the Indian population. Poverty of resources is matched by poverty of time and child bearing and child rearing are time consuming. Mothers need support. MC stepped in with childcare, health, early learning and holistic development, of children living in vulnerability, at construction sites and in slums in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune
The early years of a child’s life are a period of great vulnerability and great promise. Children
learn to talk, walk, socialize, love and reason. The brain grows rapidly, as millions of neural connections are formed and the foundations for personality and learning capacity take hold. We need to step in now, before it is too late, for Their Name is Today.
India’s Neo-Natal Mortality Rate (NNMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under-five Mortality Rate (U5MR) stand 29, 40 and 52 per 1000 live births, respectively. The rates have consistently declined over the decades, but the pace has been slow.
According to Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin 2014, Madhya Pradesh has the highest Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) i.e. 54 deaths per 1000 live births. Kerala tops the chart with just 6 deaths per 1000 live births.
States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar contribute to more than half of newborn and under-five deaths in India.
As a Nation, are we thinking enough for the under six? Are we giving them a chance to live a healthy life? Are we giving them their due rights?
Before we start talking about who should do what – government, employers of parents, parents, teachers, etc. etc. - some fundamentals for sheer survival of the child –
Care at Birth and soon after …
First, for safe delivery the FIVE CLEANS - clean delivery surface, clean hands of birth attendant, clean cord tie, clean blade and clean cord stump, are essential. And all this, under active supervision of a qualified birth attendant.
Second, the first course served to the baby has to be mother’s milk! Breastfeeding the baby within the first hour works miracles: the colostrum in the first milk nourishes and gives the first shot of immunity; it keeps out infections through bottles and spoons; it provides physical warmth and helps production of milk for the next feed. No honey and no mugli gutti grandma!
Next, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is strongly recommended by WHO.. Poor, working mothers cannot do it, even if they want to, because how will they carry the child to their place of work? MC’s crèche at a construction site, the place of work, is one solution. The mothers leaves the infant behind in the crèche, where the MC staff provides care, the building contractor allows for nursing breaks during the working day (MC waged a battle for this; it was not easy) and the mothers pick up the children in the evening! So simple and yet so difficult. Look around and try to find out if quality crèches at workplaces are the norm or the exception?
After 6 months, when breast milk is not enough to meet the nutritional needs of the child, complementary food is added to the diet of the child. It’s a transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods, though given more frequently, the softer version, in appropriate quantities.
The essentials done, it’s primetime for the body and brain: the body will grow and the brain will connect like never again. The baby will start to smile at the mother, follow a dangling toy, turn head to the source of sound, and soon it’s Happy Birthday!
#Mynameistoday, the Mobile Creches blog, will attempt to inform, provoke and connect, on issues of critical importance to our present and our future.
Do join us for and be a part of the conversations or to put across your questions on the status of our young children in India; be with us on our Social Media platforms.
To know more about us, go to our website – www.mobilecreches.org
Join the Movement and nurture childhood.