After being told that both her children- Rahul, 13, and Pratik, 11, are anaemic, Meena Shukla is now constantly looking for iron-rich foods to feed them. Through a SNEHA programme at Janata Colony, Kandivali west, Shukla found out that both her children’s condition, especially about her younger son’s severe anaemia problem.
“My husband is a driver and I have to run the household on a tight budget. I worry about them. The younger one is so thin,” said Shukla.
Shukla was visibly excited when the programme co-ordinator, KK Jayalakshmi told her she could opt for cheaper iron-rich foods such as nachni, drumsticks among others. “I will try out the recipes at home,” she said.
Both children are on iron tablets since February. Since then, Shukla has made some changes in the diet at home (more vegetables and less junk food) and claims that the programme has helped Pratik has gain some weight.
The programme has identified about 150 adolescents who are anaemic in slum. Almost an equal number of boys and girls have been affected by the condition. Anaemia, or iron deficiency is caused by the lack of iron in the diet among others. Its symptoms include tiredness and lethargy, pale complexion, headache and coldness in hand and feet. The programme provides iron supplements for the children suffering from anaemia (which they are supposed to collect each day), regular check-ups, and counselling about how to improve the diet among others.
Nazreen, 17, for instance, would return from college tired and would go to sleep immediately. Her two other siblings, a brother and sister are also anaemic.
“These children do not eat well. Most of them skip breakfast, and directly eat at lunchtime. They also eat a lot of junk in between meals,” said Jayalakshmi.
The community organisers have to coax the children to take the iron supplements. Many complain of nausea, stomach ache, among other side effects and some have even dropped out of the programme. But the community organisers are persistent and counsel them on how to reduce the chances of side effects with the supplements.
Many children and their parents are also happy with the programme. “Two girls who would get very irregular periods have started getting regular cycles now. One girl said she doesn’t feel dizzy any more after taking the supplements,” said community officer, Najma Shaikh.
(Names of the children and parents under the programme have been changed to protect privacy)