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Beating malnutrition; health awareness seeps into interiors of Bengal

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Beating malnutrition

Shruti Roy, a chubby seven-month-old baby of Loharsole village in this West Bengal district bordering Jharkhand, is a far cry from all-too-familiar pictures of malnourished children. And as awareness grows among the shy and conservative pregnant women and lactating mothers of this region, more and more infants now resemble Shruti.

Awareness is being spread thanks to initiatives of the state government that appears determined to bring down West Bengal’s rate of underweight children, currently at 31.6 per cent as per the National Family Health Survey (2015-16).

Shruti’s mother, Ashtami Roy, who valued her daughter’s health over tradition, told a group of visiting journalists: “I gave sattu and bananas to my daughter when she was six months old.”

The Bede community residing in Loharsole village were snake charmers by profession. They are tribal people residing in mud huts in the extreme interiors. The total population of the village is 532.

Talking about the gradual change and their initiatives, Amitabha Patra, District Programme Officer, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), said: “We provide supplementary nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and for the children up to six years. In order to counter calorie- and protein-related malnourishment, we provide nutritional support.”

“We have been able to make them understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding of new-borns till six months and the importance of the mother’s first milk,” he said.

Colostrum (the milk produced by the mother just after delivery) provides protective antibodies and essential nutrients, acting as a first “natural” immunisation for newborns, strengthening their immune system and reducing the chances of death in the neonatal period.

“When my baby was born I gave her the first milk immediately for I had learnt that it will keep her healthy. It is better than injection (vaccines),” said Mamoni Bedia, who gave birth recently.

Patra said under the ICDS scheme, he and his team are imparting pre-school education, as well as health and nutrition education, for three- to six-year-old children through community-based Anganwadi Centres (AWCs).

Immunisation, health check-ups and referral services (for severely undernourished children) are provided in convergence with the state government’s Department of Health and Family Welfare.

Here in Purulia, the ICDS provides these services to the remotest community with its vast network of 4,831 operational AWCs in 22 ICDS projects across the district.

With Unicef’s support, these ICDS projects now provide improved growth monitoring, and better feeding practices for infants and children, among others.

(Binita Das was in Purulia on a media visit organised by the Purulia District Administration and Unicef, West Bengal. She can be contacted at [email protected])

Disaster

WHO Board to get 1st update from Covid panel on Oct 5-6, report next year

A diplomat said it is improbable that the independent panel set up by the WHO would be severely critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China

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Xi Jinpin and UN Chief

The independent panel on Covid-19 announced by World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in July will submit its first update to the world body’s executive board at its meeting on 5-6 October.

The panel was set up at the World Health Assembly against the backdrop of sharp criticism aimed at the WHO chief and Beijing for their handling of the contagious virus that is believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan. Beijing locked down domestic travel in the early weeks of the infection but allowed flights to freely leave the country, spreading virus across the globe.

At last count, John Hopkins University tracker of Covid-19 infections across the world indicates the virus has infected more than 31 million people worldwide and almost killed a million people. China, from where the disease started late last year, has reported only a small proportion of infections, less than even Oman’s 95,000 cases. The United States and India are among those hit hardest.

The US had led the demand for an independent review of WHO’s response that was seen to have let Beijing guide its hand in the early days of the pandemic. At the UN General Assembly this week, Donald Trump – who pulled out the US from the world health body over its handling of the disease – lashed out at China again and asked the UN to hold China “accountable” for unleashing “this plague” on the world.

Diplomats in New Delhi and Geneva, however, suggest that this is unlikely to happen. One of them said it was improbable that the independent panel – co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – would be critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China.

Already, Tedros and the independent panel have made it clear that the exercise was not a fault-finding exercise but an effort to improve the world’s response to the next pandemic.

“While we are clear that The Independent Panel must shed light on what has happened and why, this exercise is not a blame game” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Panel at its first meeting last week, according to an official statement.

The panel’s co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she hoped their report would lead to “bold, credible, robust and implementable solutions that ensure our world is better prepared for the next pandemic”.

The panel is scheduled to submit its final report before the next World Health Assembly (WMA) in May next year but will come up with regular updates for other meetings. Like when the WHO’s top policy-making body, the WMA, resumes its meeting on 9-14 November.

The US isn’t part of the panel. Preeti Sudan, a retired civil servant who was India’s Union health secretary when the coronavirus disease broke out, is a member of the WHO panel.

China has sent Zhong Nanshan, the pulmonologist who is credited by Chinese media for having spearheaded the country’s fight against the outbreak of a new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

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Sisodia’s Condition Stable, To Undergo Second Covid-19 Test Soon

Manish Sisodia was admitted to the LNJP Hospital on Wednesday.

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Manish Sisodia

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party Leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, currently undergoing treatment for Covid-19, is stable and he will be administered another Coronavirus test in a couple of days, officials said on Thursday.

He was admitted to the LNJP Hospital on Wednesday after he had contracted the infection.

“He is in ICU since yesterday, but his condition is stable. The minister has been put on oxygen support as per requirement, and is under constant observation,” a senior doctor of the hospital said. “The Deputy CM will be administered an RT-PCR test in a couple of days,” the doctor added. Asked if the minister has any co-morbidities, the doctor said, “he has hypertension.”

The 48-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader was admitted to the hospital after he complained of fever and low oxygen levels. In a video message, Sisodia praised the efforts made by doctors at the LNJP hospital.

“I have been brought to the LNJP Hospital after a need was felt for it. But, seeing the spirit with which the doctors and other healthcare workers are serving patients, I must say, as a deputy chief minister, it is very encouraging,” he said. The minister also said that he was proud of the health workers serving in the hospital. “It is a wonderful facility here and I am very proud of them. If you need any medical attention in this coronavirus time, LNJP is ready to serve you,” the minister said.

Sisodia had tested positive for COVID-19 on September 14 and was in home isolation. “He (Sisodia) was admitted to the hospital as a precautionary measure since he was continuously having a little higher body temperature and his oxygen level dropped slightly,” a senior official said on Wednesday.

Sisodia was unable to attend the one-day Delhi Assembly session on September 14 since he had tested positive for the disease. He is the second Cabinet minister in the Arvind Kejriwal government to contract COVID-19 infection after Health Minister Satyendar Jain. The health minister had tested positive for COVID-19 in June and was hospitalized. He was later administered plasma therapy.

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Ex-Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in ICU after drop in oxygen level

Tarun Gogoi had tested coronavirus positive last month.

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tarun gogoi

Veteran Congress leader and former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi was on Thursday admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH), following a drop in his oxygen saturation level. He had tested coronavirus positive last month.

According to reports, the 85-year-old, who was admitted at a private cabin of the hospital, was shifted to ICU to monitor him effectively. His condition is stated to be stable now.

“Visited the new ICU of GMCH to see ex-CM Tarun Gogoi, enquired about his health and prayed to God for his speedy recovery,” Assam Congress unit president Ripun Bora tweeted after visiting GMCH on Thursday.

Gogoi, who was CM for three consecutive terms from 2001 till 2016, was tested as Covid-19 positive on August 26, following which he was admitted to GMCH. The Assam government constituted an eight-member team of doctors to monitor his health parameters regularly.

There was a sudden drop in oxygen saturation level on August 31, but it again returned to normal after immediate intervention of doctors.

Gogoi was tested negative for Covid-19 last week, but has been staying at GMCH till his health recovers completely.

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