On 25 December 2014, when Union Health Minister announced Mission Indradhanush, few people took notice that it was to be implemented starting April. The rolling out of this Mission has been damp and worryingly uneventful in most districts.
A few weeks prior to 7 April, the date set for the first phase of the Mission, posters and boards came up in 201 districts in the country where the Mission was to be launched. Mission Indradhanush, a central government scheme, was designed specially to cover those children between the age of zero and two who are often left out of the government supported vaccination program in rural India.
Banda district was no different. Sometime in the last week of March, a poster with four children calling for ‘full immunization’ came up outside the Chief Medical Officer’s office. The poster gives no information other than that. Is there a number parents need to call? Will there be a survey? Is this a scheme? Is this just information? Not only parents but, surprisingly, most of the front line health workers like Ashas and A.N.M.s who are to execute the program starting 7 April, also shared these doubts!
Jari Village, Banda. In Jari village when the Asha worker Kusum Kali was asked what she knew about the mission she said she hadn’t even heard of it.
The A.N.M. working at the block level in Tindwari also did not know about the Mission. ‘Would it not be better if the government let us work freely and properly under one scheme first? But they keep introducing new Missions and then they want us to survey, create awareness and do the rest work for each one of these schemes separately,’ she said.
In Khaptiha Kala village, Lakshmi the Asha worker as well as the Aanganwadi worker Bittan did not know that a new mission had been implemented in the district. ‘I got to know only today that there is some new scheme and we are supposed to be administering vaccines to children,’ she added.
Even though this is a Central scheme, the Head of Immunization Programs at the district level (also the Upper C.M.O.) Dr. O.P. Mauhar said, ‘There was no need for a survey as we had already collected data when the survey for the State Nutrition Mission was carried out earlier in 2014.’ The State Nutrition Mission was announced the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister in November 2014 and is still to take off on the ground. Asked more about the Mission Dr. Mauhar said, ‘There are camps which are being set up between 7-14 April where people can bring their children for immunization. The first phase of the Mission is to be held over 4 months from April to July.’
How setting up of camps that people don’t know about, run by health workers like Ashas and A.N.M.s who don’t know about the Mission, is going to absorb the 2 crore children who are not immunized in the state, continues to be a mystery.
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