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Village Health Centres to the Rescue of Infants

ital delivery. "Earlier, we thought home delivery would save us the cost, now we are sure that hospital delivery saves life," said Suryamani.

Mayurbhanj, a tribal dominated district, was chosen as one of the six pilot districts in the entire country, which have the highest infant mortality rates (IMR), to host IMNCI. Padmavati and thousands of other women have now benefited from this programme, which has achieved tremendous results in just two years.

IMNCI is actually a modified version of the IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) strategy developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN International Children's Fund (Unicef) to reduce child mortality and morbidity and is currently being implemented in more than 80 countries.

Rabi Narayan Kanungo, a retired chief district medical officer, said: "The IMNCI strategy was adopted in October 2004 with Unicef's support to reduce the neonatal mortality rate (NMR) in India. NMR accounts for at least two-thirds of the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and this programme will automatically bring down the cases of MMR drastically.

"In Mayurbhanj, at least 57 percent of the people belong to Scheduled Tribes. Most of them stay in some of the most remote and inaccessible pockets. It is always a challenge to make the health facilities reach these pockets.

"However, we targeted two of the most crucial blocks and trained the aanganwadi workers, auxiliary nurse-midwifes, doctors and NGO workers in various phases. We have organised trainings through public-private partnership in 26 districts," said Kanungo.

Labanya Sahu, an anganwadi worker with 18 years of experience, has found her involvement in IMNCI to be very beneficial and satisfactory.

"We now visit mothers during pregnancy and prescribe proper food and nutrition practices. We have also succeeded in convincing them to go for hospital delivery. Immediately aft
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