Baby Mansi was born 2 months prematurely at about 2.6 pounds and quickly developed hypothermia…almost everyone told her parents she wouldn’t survive. Thanks to the Maternal and Neonatal Survival Initiative (MANSI) workers, the baby not only survived but thrived. In honor of the program that saved her life, the family named their daughter Mansi. I was at Mansi’s first birthday celebration during my field visit to Haridwar, India in October of 2019 when I first heard this story.
For the next few days, I followed the MANSI workers as they visited many families of infants predicted not to live because of low birth weight or premature birth. At their homes, I see flourishing children as their parents meet the workers with teary eyes of gratitude. In Haridwar, the infant mortality rate is 77 infant deaths per 1000 babies born, one of the highest in the world. The MANSI workers also educate and support government-backed Ashas and Anganwadi workers, the frontline community health workers in these rural areas. All these health workers play a critical role in promoting child health and development by providing in-home services to village families including check-ups, immunizations, health, and nutrition counseling for pregnant women and mothers, supplemental nutrition, and referrals. The MANSI program is partially funded by the Chicago mothers and daughters of Circle of Hope, in which I participate.
As I shadowed the workers on dusty paths with dupattas covering our faces, they shared some of their innovative products to combat hypothermia, one of the leading causes of death in infants born here. The products include a kangaroo pouch that allows the mother to modestly hold the infant close to her chest, both to keep the baby warm and nurse the baby, so the mother can use her hands for household responsibilities. They have created a wooden warming box with a hot water pouch inserted below the bed to function as a neonatal incubator.
During bumpy rides between villages, I learned they did not have enough products for the newborns in need. Each worker provides care to families in her own village and has a very limited number of boxes or pouches to lend a family of a newborn at any given time. This limited supply leads to the complex decision making of which newborn is provided with an increased chance of survival and which newborn isn’t. Often the families are neighbors, in the village, the Asha herself lives, creating many layers of difficulty.
Seeing the MANSI workers participate in these incredibly difficult decisions inspired me to find a way to get them more products. I decided I would create a fundraising campaign for the kangaroo pouches and warming boxes. The program workers didn’t have enough development assessment kits to monitor infant development milestones. They were sharing the kits across villages, leaving infants with delays in unassessed development milestones, diminishing the probable success of early interventions. I wanted to help them get more of these kits.
Then COVID-19 hit….. In addition to these products, the health care workers now needed masks and other PPE to keep them safe and to slow the spread of Coronavirus during health visits. In a place where people already experience a devastating infant mortality rate, limited supplies of soap and nutrition and unprotected health worker visits would be crippling.
Learning this, I quickly switched the focus of our campaign to raising funds to increase the availability of protective supplies for the families and health care workers supporting them. A philanthropist generously provided funding for the boxes, pouches, and development kits and matching funds for the first $5000 raised. Soon after, another philanthropist generously donated $2500 in matching funds to encourage us to continue our efforts to $15000. 100% of the donations are for the campaign, as the Chicago Circle of Hope daughters are underwriting all the costs.
Please join me in supporting these efforts.
We are All on the Same Side
From Corona, None can Hide.
Give Now, Give a Gift
Come Now, Give the Poorest a Lift.
Donations can be made here:
This campaign was featured in Forbes magazine-
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This short verse was written by the Circle of Hope for this campaign.
Mira Bhatia is 15 years old and a freshman in high school in Evanston Illinois. Mira is energized around health issues related to women and children.