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Pregnant Women's Contest to Curb Infant Mortality

It's a competition for women all right but sans glamorous clothes, high heels and choreographers! Some slums in Indore have organised a pregnant women's contest with the aim of reducing infant mortality.

Started almost a year ago, the competition evaluates mothers' weights during pregnancy, the kind of medication they are taking, food intake and hygiene standards at home.

The criteria are evaluated by a couple of doctors from nearby hospitals, NGO members working in the slums and women leaders there.

"We check whether they are taking iron tablets or not, getting all the injections required during pregnancy or not. We also see whether they are aware of a balanced diet - and not necessarily costly food," said Kamla Jaiswal, a community leader in the Shiv Nagar shantytown.

Shiv Nagar is one of the scores of slums in Indore - the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh - that houses over 485 families mostly comprising daily wagers.

"A couple of years back, six to seven out of 10 newborns in our slums used to die during childbirth or within a few months but things have changed now. We are organising such competitions every two months and giving women prizes like utensils and plastic cycles for their ready use," said Babita, another community leader.

The slum dwellers say the Urban Health Resource Centre (UHRC), a voluntary organisation, has helped them understand the importance of health during pregnancy and also of hospital deliveries.

"The health condition of the urban poor is a great issue. We have told them how they can save their children by taking small steps. We have told them that if they go to a hospital for childbirth, they will get money from the government," said Siddharth Agarwal, director of UHRC.

"Our role is to create awareness among these people, especially women, and they are doing it with a mission. The pregnant women's contest is just an exampl e of their innovation and dedication to improve their health condition," Agarwal, a doctor, told IANS.

He said even now six out of 10 childbirths in the country take place at home, with untrained people aiding most deliveries. "Home delivery and subsequent excessive bleeding is posing a great threat to both mother and child."

Durga Suryavanshi, 26, a past winner of the contest, said: "I won it, beating 20 other pregnant women. As per the advice of a doctor, I kept a strict record of my iron tablet intake, went for check-ups every three months and ate plenty of green vegetables.

"I went to the hospital to deliver my baby and the baby boy is quite healthy. He falls sick less frequently than my elder daughter who took birth at home," she said adding that she received a lunch container and utensils as prizes for coming first in the competition.

Laxmi Chaurasia is another such winner. She hails from the Mayapuri slum: "I have seen many women losing their kids after birth but a bit of awareness helped me and my kid stay healthy. I am telling everyone to go for regular checkups and deliver their babies in hospitals," Chaurasia said.


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