"Doctor Mom" Brings Healthcare to Her Rural Village

NandiniSeveral years ago, when Nandini Nath needed cash to buy seeds and pesticides for her barley and potato crops, her only option was to take a  loan from her local loan shark, who charged her 60% interest. She took  the loan because she didn’t have any other option.

When Nandini had a chance to join a self-help group through GramUtthan, Freedom from Hunger’s microfinance partner in Orissa, India, she  jumped at it. For the first time, she had access to capital with terms that  she could manage. 

Like all of Freedom from Hunger’s partners, Gram-Utthan embraces an  integrated approach to microfinance, so financial services are only the  beginning. Nandini also received financial literacy training and access to  health education and services. More importantly, she found her calling and  her community gained a vital resource.

Because she had some formal education, good people skills and the  confidence of her community, she was selected to become a Village Health  Volunteer, or “Doctor Mom” as her neighbors call her.

After her initial training about how to prevent and manage common  illnesses, she received her own Medicine Point, a wooden box stocked  with an array of health products such as Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS),  water purification tablets, de-worming tablets and other simple, but  essential, medicines and health products. 

Every month, Nandini holds two health education forums (on topics such  as diarrhea prevention and treatment, women’s health and the feeding of  young children) for the self-help groups in her rural village of Sanoanko.   

With oversight from a licensed pharmacist and a health supervisor, she  helps her neighbors attend to their basic health needs, distributes essential  health products from her “Medicine Point” when needed and refers them  to other local health resources when more advanced care is required. 

Along with all the value that Nandini adds, her neighbors now have access  to savings and loan products through Gram-Utthan to help them deal  with unexpected medical costs, which can cripple a family financially or  cause them to delay seeking treatment.

Village Health Volunteers, like Nandini, are having a significant impact in  rural areas, where access to medical care is limited. Research shows that,  in a similar program implemented with our partner Bandhan, 96% of  mothers are breastfeeding within an hour of birth, in comparison to 61%  before the program was implemented. Eighty-eight percent of mothers  are treating their sick children with Oral Rehydration Solution, a dramatic  increase from 60%. 

The people of Sanoanko see the impact firsthand. They no longer have to  walk for miles to get simple health advice or deal with minor health issues.  Nor are they cut off from health services when their village floods during  winter rains. They have Nandini.

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