Holenarsipur, India

"I was married when I was 19 years old. I became the mother of a baby girl. My daughter was thin and weak and she died within 10 days. My husband name is Manjunatha and at that time we didn’t have money to take her to the hospital,’’ said Asha unemotionally. Her husband daily earnings are not sufficient to maintain their family. With her death, Asha's daughter had become one more nameless statistic in the long list of babies who do not survive to see their birthday.

Asha’s family is staying behind the housing board in Holenarsipur Village at Hassan district in the Karnataka state, south India. The place is tucked deep in the green fields and coconuts. Paddy are the chief crops grown here. Most people where Asha's family stays lead a hand-to-mouth existence, working the fields as daily wagers for a measly few rupees and are unable to keep body and sound together. Superstition, tradition, and [ignorance of proper health and hygiene care direct] the hearts and minds of the villagers, especially when it comes to issues of life and death like pregnancy and child birth.

Bridge of Hope is working to help the poor children in [the] area. Asha attended all the BOH programs along with [her] neighbors whose children were registered in the project center… She came to know that the BOH project and partnership with Vitamin Angels was going to distribute multivitamin capsules to pregnant women. The aim of the distribution of the tablets is to ensure that children survive their early years when they are most vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. Thus, project staff had their eyes on Asha and quickly called her to the program when she became pregnant again in August 2009. She received a multivitamin tablet and took one regularly for 3 months. [She] gave birth to beautiful baby whose weight was 3 kilograms.

Cradling her sleeping 2 month-old daughter Asha says, “for my first pregnancy, I had no money and no nutrition to speak of. I would eat either once or twice a day – usually rice with some dal and may be some nuggekai leaves (tiny green leaves of the drumstick tree - a good source of Iron) which we made into a curry or a vegetable side dish. I hardly had any meat and I was thin, weak and anemic, as was my daughter. She was born at home and she died soon after.” As she speaks, her eyes reflect her pain and tiny lines etch themselves onto her face.

As she [continues to] talk, the pain lines smooth out and looking down at her baby, she smiles and says, “I even had a normal delivery at the hospital. Initially, I was uneasy because villagers frightened me by saying that I would lose this child too. They wanted me to follow traditional medical practices and superstition.. I refused to listen to them because through the teaching at the center, I had learned about real causes for disease and how a trained gynecologist can handle difficulties during pregnancies and childbirth…BOH staff allayed all my fears about my pregnancy. My daughter was born healthy and alive only because of these multivitamin tablets.”

As she spoke, Asha laid her unnamed baby girl down on the mat.

Patting the little one to sleep, she continues. "The Holenarsipur Bridge of Hope Center has really been a blessing to me and my village. Earlier, I had no clue about health and good hygiene practices that I could adopt for myself and for my baby, but now I do. I have learned about the importance of immunization, breastfeeding, how to maintain hygiene. The most useful lessons were on nutrition and regular food habits.

"My husband and I are very happy that we have a child who is alive and well. My prayer for her is that she would do well in life. I lost my first baby and now I have this one." Seeing her smile and knowing she is healthy and fit makes me very happy.


Bengaluru Diocese

This story was brought to us by Believers Church. Through their Bridge of Hope project and our partnership, Vitamin Angels reaches 50,000 women throughout India with prenatal multivitamins.