Experienced ASHA becomes advocate for double-fortified salt

Santosh with her family

Santosh with her family outside their home in the village of Antarvailya

Madhya Pradesh, INDIA – Santosh Sukhram has been an Accredited Social Health Activist, or ASHA, for more than 16 years. She lives and works in the village of Antarvailya, in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, India, and is often the first stop for members of the community who have health-related concerns, questions or problems. She has worked hard to build that trust, and now uses it to promote the use of double-fortified salt (DFS) to combat anaemia in women and girls and ensure better health for everyone in the village.

When DFS, salt fortified with iron and iodine, was introduced in May 2018, the villagers were reluctant to use it. The black flecks in the salt – the added iron – spurred myths and misconceptions. The villagers didn’t know what it was, but they were suspicious. Even Santosh continued to use iodized salt for cooking.

That changed in November 2019, when Santosh met with Nutrition International’s district coordinator. The coordinator explained that the iodine in the salt is critical for healthy brain development, and the iron helps to prevent iron-deficiency anaemia. She told them she switched to using it herself in her own home. The information gave her a new understanding of the importance of DFS and helped her to answer questions and spread awareness in the community.

In a sector meeting, attended by the Nutrition International’s district coordinator, Santosh shared her experience with DFS, telling the other ASHAs that she saw no change of colour in her food while cooking with it and reassuring them that the black flecks were iron. Bolstered by Santosh, the other ASHAs were motivated to switch to DFS themselves, and to promote its use within the community.

Santosh was grateful for the new information that Nutrition International provided on DFS, because it allowed her to provide better advice to the villagers, especially pregnant women and adolescent girls. During her home visits she is continually putting her learning into practice.

“Thank God someone made me aware of this most useful commodity, knowledge which I was lacking for so many months,” said Santosh. “I now feel confident in myself to address the related challenges.”