Written by Aafrin Ansari
The stepping stone of my career began with ARMMAN, an NGO, where I joined as Project Officer on the DFID mMitra Arogya sakhi Homebased care project. The purpose of this project was reducing maternal and infant morbidity as well as mortality by creating health awareness among rural women through various health services and generating women entepreneueurs as a by-product of the same. Considering the fact that there are more mobile phones in India than toilets, technology was leveraged to provide these services to pregnant mothers (beneficiaries) ranging from being creative to communicative, easily accessible, comprehensible & time saving, by creating a platform of sending preventive health care information to the women through voice messages & animations. Maternal and infant care is essential for safe motherhood as well as for a healthy childhood. Therefore, with the same insight, ARMMAN started to provide information on various issues related to antenatal and postnatal care for both mother and newborn.
During my field visits to Solapur, Osmanabad and Washim where the project functions, I was delighted to be acquainted with the fact that most of the women have been listening to the voice messages very attentively. In fact, they had a deep desire to know more on these issues. Since the time the project was implememted, the beneficiaries have been trying to imbibe valuable knowledge from the voice messages and animations. Most of the delivered mothers were fully satisfied with these services where they obtained such wonderful baby care information right at the doorstep. Specially keeping in mind the long awaited queues and increasing burden on the health sector, the doctors fail to provide a lot of important information to the pregnant women.
Our Project doctor reported spontaneous positive responses from the Arogya sakhis when asked about their experiences. Few Arogya sakhis reported that the mothers were taking advice from them whenever they need, thus, establishing a bond of friendship and trust with the mothers. In other words, they lived up to the expectation of ‘sakhi’ and ‘mitra’.
One of the arogyasakhi of Kasegaon village reported, that all beneficiaries not only listen to voice messages curiously but also implement them in their day-to-day lives. Multipara women (already having a child before) were completely satisfied with the voice messages probably as they could draw a comparison between the infromation they receeived in their earlier pregnancy and in the current one. They have accepted the fact that because of voice messages and animations, their babies have become healthy. According to their opinion, they never got access to such varied knowledge on maternal-and infant care before.
An Arogyasakhi of Indiranagar reported a case where a two month old baby was down with diarrhea. The mother knew the danger signs & symptoms of diarrhea because she had heard voice messages & seen the animations carefully. Therefore, she immediately went to doctor & took care of her baby. Now, her baby is absolutely normal now and is gaining weight appropriately.
Another 6-month-old baby had developed symptoms of pneumonia when they had gone to Mumbai. However, since information was avaialble through a mobile phone, the woman conitued to recive the voice calls and sought appropriate treatment for her child. Now her baby is quite normal and is gaining weight. This was another heart-warming story reported by one of the Arogyaskhis
I feel immensely satisfied to be a part of something that improves mother and infant health by raising accurate knowledge among women and thus increasing their chances of survival. I wish to be able to continue this good work.