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In Thane’s rural and tribal areas, Zilla Parishad seeks to do away with unsafe child hammocks

In the tribal areas, all homes have two wooden poles fixed in the ground a metre apart, with a saree or bedsheet tied to the two poles serving as a cradle for newborn children.

Traditional hammocks can cause death by asphyxia; Zila Parishad will provide families with cradles. (Express Photo by Deepak Joshi)

The Thane Zilla Parishad has started a ‘Jholi Mukt Abhiyan’ in the tribal pockets of the district to end the practice of carrying or resting infants in cloth hammocks.

The hammocks, which are typically made out of saris, force the infant into a position in which breathing might get constricted, prevent access to fresh air, increase the potential of malnourishment, and can even cause adverse changes to body shape and impact growth, Zilla Parishad officials said.

In the tribal areas, all homes have two wooden poles fixed in the ground a metre apart, with a saree or bedsheet tied to the two poles serving as a cradle for newborn children.

“This practice can harm the child’s growth…newborns should sleep and be rested on flat and firm surfaces. A hammock can lead to unsafe sleep positions for newborns,” Santosh Bhosle, women and child development officer of Thane ZP, said.

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Dr Bhausaheb Dangde, chief executive officer of Thane ZP, said that considering these issues, it has been decided to provide cradles, kangaroo baby carriers, and other necessities to families with newborn babies.

“This is important for the proper growth of children. We will also be carrying out an awareness programme for parents on the necessity of using a proper cradle, and stopping use of the hammocks,” Dr Dangde said.

Bhosle said there had been “many cases” of infants dying due to suffocation and asphyxia, for which there were “no other visible reasons apart from the use of hammocks”.

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By taking these steps, “we are trying to ensure that we do not leave any stone unturned to reduce the number of child deaths, and make all possible efforts to provide facilities and guidance to the parents of newborn babies,” he said.

Officials said there are approximately 1.20 lakh children of ages 5 or younger in the rural areas of Thane. A total 74 deaths of children in this age group were reported in 2019 and 2020, they said. Most of these deaths were due to asphyxia, pneumonia, and insect- and animal-bites.

Dr Yashwant Sadavarte, paediatrician at Thane district Civil Hospital, said: “Keeping infants in cloth hammocks can cause aspiration pneumonitis. In most cases the child is put back into the hammock after feeding, and sometimes, when the child vomits, it cannot move and the liquid goes into the lungs. This can be fatal. Using a cradle is a better option, because they have flat platforms and are spacious enough for the child to move.”

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Sushila Lobhi, a new mother in Bhangwadi village of Murbad district, said she was unaware of the harm the hammocks can cause.

“We have been following this tradition for generations. Also, we do not have access to proper cradles in the village… We will be happy to use cradles if the government provides them,” she said.

Apart from tribal areas like Murbad and Shahapur talukas in Thane district, in other rural area too, parents tend to make hammocks at their home for their babies. The women and child development department of the Zilla Parishad has decided to start the initiative in the tribal area and extend it subsequently to other rural parts of the district.

The department plans to take back the cradle once the infant has outgrown it. “We can give that cradle to another family where a child has been born,” an official said.

 

First published on: 18-07-2021 at 04:39:53 am
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