Jorhat, Nov. 14: An action research project to improve nutritional status is being implemented in tea gardens across Dibrugarh district after a survey showed high prevalence of anaemia among adolescent girls.
The action research project, launched in September, is supported by Unicef.
Associate professor Tulika Goswami Mahanta of Assam Medical College and Hospital, Dibrugarh, who is providing technical help to design and conduct the project, said 15 tea gardens had been covered till now.
“The project is being initiated in the areas where 96 per cent adolescent girls are found anaemic with high worm infestation rate and poor knowledge regarding menstrual and personal hygiene. Other nutritional disorders like under nutrition, stunting (low height for age), vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency were also found among adolescent girls,” Goswami Mahanta said.
The AMCH doctor said the project involved holding regular nutrition and health education as well as demonstrating how to cook healthy food by a group of nutritionists and public health workers.
“We are promoting intake of green vegetables and fruits available locally besides teaching them hygiene like washing hands, need to take regular baths and keeping their environment clean,” she said.
The results, Goswami Mahanta said, had so far been encouraging.
“The findings are yet to be collated but there is a noticeable difference in the deportment of most of the girls who have so far attended our programmes.”
The professor said with the support of Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) and NEED — an NGO — kitchen gardens and community kitchen gardens in tea estates were also set up. These gardens will be looked after by these adolescent girls.
Talking to The Telegraph over the phone from Greenwood tea estate in Dibrugarh, 16-year-old Mina Kurmi said she loved to attend these programmes.
“I not only get to know the nutritional value of different food items and fruits and vegetables but also get to learn new recipes. I wish that every week such programmes were held in our tea garden so that I can learn to make new kinds of dishes,” she said.
Mina said whatever she learnt about hygiene, she passed on the knowledge to her younger siblings but “sometimes they remembered and sometimes they did not”.
Kalpana Buzarbaruah, who is associated with the Anganwadi Workers Training Centre and imparts training to these girls, said she taught nearly 35 girls between 10 and 19 years how to make pakodas and vegetable suji with soaked gram and carrots and other locally available greens.
According to a National Health Survey report, Assam and Andhra Pradesh have the highest percentage of anaemic women between the ages of 15 and 49 years.
“We are targeting adolescent girls as it is they who will one day become mothers and it is important that they know everything about maternity and child health. Through them we can lower the high infant mortality rate in tea gardens,” Goswami Mahanta said.