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Village Health Centres to the Rescue of Infants

In Bhudurubania village in Orissa's Mayurbhanj district, the divide between life and death for a nascent baby is as narrow as the road that separates the habitation and the childcare centre.

Padmavati Behera realised this recently. The centre is just in front of her home but she hardly visited it for any pregnancy related care because she believed in traditional health practices. It was only when her child died of cold and cough, an easily curable ailment, did she realise that the simple steps often suggested by the 'aanganwadi' worker could have saved her child.

Padmavati is among those unfortunate women in the remote areas of Orissa who can never be sure of their children's survival. At least 75 of every 1,000 children in Orissa die before they complete their first year, says Grassroots Features.

"I kept watching helplessly as my child lay dying on my lap," said Padmavati. "We went to the Gunia (the local traditional healer) but the condition did not improve," said Suryamani Behera, Padmavati's mother-in-law.

After continued illness for a few days, the child eventually died. "Ignorance and blind faith took the child away from us," rues Suryamani. The child was about seven months old.

Things, however, looked up when Padmavati got pregnant again. By then, she was part of a new awakening process in Mayurbhanj, aimed at tackling infant deaths.

Her third child, eight months old now, did not suffer the same fate, thanks to the Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (IMNCI).

Suryamani had by then attended a training course and Padmavati had been to several meetings of mothers, which helped them come out of the trauma of losing a child.

Suryamani says: "Only a few days ago the child had cold and cough and we got it cured with Didi's (aanganwadi worker) medicine."

With the aanganwaadi worker's advice they went for a hosp
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