This year's Mother's Day, on May 10, will be special for the district. On that day, 33 private hospitals and 10 government hospitals in the district will be elevated to the status of ‘child-friendly' hospitals.

This is being done as part of reviving the ‘child-friendly hospital' scheme in the district. A meeting chaired by District Collector M. Beena held recently decided to proceed with the works to achieve the target by May 10.

The project was launched by World Health Organisation and Unicef in 1992 to promote breast-feeding. In 1995, the city was declared as the first ‘child-friendly city' in the country. Next year, the district got the status and by 2002, all hospitals in the State were elevated to that status.

However, the project lost momentum due to lack of proper follow-up, said Dr. Beena. Even though many hospitals retain the certificate testifying ‘child-friendliness', the project is now being revived to bring back the initial vigour for the movement.

As the first step in re-certification, the existing mechanism will be put under close monitoring for one month. In April, an inspection team will visit all these 43 hospitals to review the situation there. Training will be given to all the staff in these hospitals – from the heads of departments to cleaning staff. It is expected that with the revival of the project, breast-feeding could be promoted by 80 to 90 per cent and more public awareness could be made on this. As part of the project, mother-support groups will be formed at hospital and local levels.

Authorities are being prompted to revive the scheme with urgency as statistics available for this year showed a decline in the practice of breast-feeding and a corresponding rise in the use of feeding bottles. A decline was also noticed during this period in the service rendered by hospitals, which were initially certified as ‘child-friendly'.

The new drive is being supported by Arogyakeralam – the National Rural Health Mission, and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.

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