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In Srinagar, a plan for every pregnant woman, with a gift pack

With travel restricted, doctors and clinics hard to get through to, and stores and markets closed, Srinagar District Project Officer Zeenat Ara has been using her network of anganwadi workers such as Heena, and ASHA workers to ensure no expectant mother or the newborn falls off their radar.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: May 6, 2020 9:16:40 am
In Srinagar, a plan for every pregnant woman, with a gift pack As part of the administration’s outreach, pregnant women have been getting gift kits. (Express Photo by Naveed Iqbal)

ANGANWADI worker Heena Shafi hands a pregnant woman two packets. One, for the 21-year-old expectant mother carries a hot water bag, towels, a set of comfortable nightwear and slippers. The other is for the baby — a soft, furry pink blanket, wipes, diapers, clothes, soap and few other essentials.

At the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) office at the Old Secretariat in Srinagar, Heena is part of an all-woman team of anganwadi workers who have been reaching out to pregnant women amidst the nationwide lockdown.

With travel restricted, doctors and clinics hard to get through to, and stores and markets closed, Srinagar District Project Officer Zeenat Ara has been using her network of anganwadi workers such as Heena, and ASHA workers to ensure no expectant mother or the newborn falls off their radar.

Kashmir has so far recorded 678 Covid cases and seven deaths, and the ICDS team in Srinagar and the administration are taking no chances.

After the death of two pregnant women in Anantnag — one who tested positive for Covid a day after she died and the other case still under investigation — Kashmir Divisional Commissioner P K Pole had directed the district authorities to draw up birth plans for pregnant women so that they can be screened for Covid in advance. In Srinagar, all pregnant women, who are due for delivery in the next couple of weeks, will be tested for the virus.

According to the district’s current plan, pregnant women from red zones will be taken to the city’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital, where they will be tested for the virus. Those confirmed positive will be sent to SKIMS Medical College & Hospital in Bemina, while those who test negative for the virus will be admitted at the city’s biggest maternity facility, Lal Ded Hospital.

As part of their outreach, pregnant women have also been provided kits like the one Heena handed over to 21-year-old Sabrina Amir Khan, who had reached the ICDS centre with her husband.

“My husband drives an auto in the city. With this lockdown, there is no public transport and nothing for him to earn,” she said. Her baby is due on May 9 and with markets still closed, she couldn’t buy clothes for the baby.

“There are about 1,700 pregnant women on our list of beneficiaries in Srinagar district. Of them, about 588 are close to their due dates. We were informed of a case where a pregnant woman from a different district was forced to give birth in a load carrier. Since then, we have been ensuring that we reach out to expectant mothers and help as much as we can. While we try and deliver these kits to their homes, some also come here and collect them,” said Project Officer Ara.

The department began preparing for the kits about two weeks ago, sourcing blankets and other essentials and packing them in separate bags. The kits are in addition to the regular anganwadi supplies of rice, pulses and ghee.

With help from the district administration, the team has enlisted five ambulances to assist in bringing pregnant women to hospitals.

The ICDS team in Srinagar is also preparing to provide masks and sanitisers to 45,000 beneficiaries, including young mothers and children below 6.

Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Choudhary, who is also the chairman of the district ICDS committee and first planned the outreach, said, “While all our efforts are focussed on addressing the coronavirus outbreak, we are also ensuring that expectant mothers and those with pre-existing conditions do not suffer in any manner. This system is being institutionalised, that’s why we are pre-empting their requirement and reaching out to them with the help of the ICDS network.”

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