Bhubaneswar: If experts are to be believed, Mahulanali in Angul district is likely to become the first village in Odisha to get rid of anaemia owing to behavioural changes and community participation in the fight against the disease. Anaemia is a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells (RBCs).
As the clock strikes 8 in the evening, Yudhisthir Nayak, a senior citizen of Mahulanali under Sanahula Panchayat of the district, starts ringing a bell from the community centre. As the bell rings, women of reproductive age in the village get prepared for their daily dose of iron folic acid tablet prescribed according to their haemoglobin levels.
This community routine for the last one year has proved to be crucial in reducing the percentage of anaemic women in the village.
While 63 per cent of women in the village consisting of three hamlets were diagnosed with anaemia in August 2019, the number has dropped to 40 per cent in December 2020. Along with regular iron folic acid (IFA) tablet intake, the women have also added dietary diversity to their daily food habit.
“Lack of awareness, existing social norms, negligence, wrong food habits and misconceptions about IFA tablets were the major reasons behind this vulnerability,” said Banita Behera, sarpanch of Sanahula Panchayat.
At this juncture, RANI (Reduction in Anaemia through Normative Innovations) program started its intervention in the village in August 2019. RANI is a social norm-based intervention, aiming to reduce anaemia among women of reproductive age by promoting the consumption of IFA along with nutritious food.
After the conduct of mass testing at the village, the community was trained to understand the health risks of anaemia and the importance of taking IFA tablets through participatory activities. Short videos on IFA tablets and its benefits were also shown to the villagers.
“Even then many women in the village cited their forgetfulness and blamed it on daily house chores as the major reason behind irregularity. To counter this, after discussion with the self-help groups and elected local body representatives, it was decided to have the RANI bell at 8pm daily. This behavioural change helped in improving the HB level drastically,” said Anadi Charm Sahu, community facilitator of RANI.
This success scripted in Mahulnali village has inspired—women in the surrounding villages to fight against anaemia.