The Belaku Trust is an NGO set up in 1995 with the aim of improving the health and nutrition of very poor women and children, through a combination of socially relevant research and community service.  Comprising a team with backgrounds in medicine, nutrition, public health, and medical anthropology; the Trust works in Kanakapura Taluk, Bangalore rural district.  While its field programmes are restricted to these local and regional areas, its research-related activities extend beyond to the national and international levels.

From an initial emphasis on health-related issues; it now responds to other factors that impinge on health such as the socio-economic well-being and cultural perceptions of people.  Some of its ongoing programmes are:

  • An income-generation project that has improved women’s incomes and the well-being of their families.
  • A nutrition counselling and training video on infant care and feeding for the community and other groups.
  • An annual summer camp for children of various ages to disseminates health information through theatre, song, dance, pottery and painting.
  • An education and medical assistance programme for girls and families.

Belaku is engaged in health and empowerment training in the areas of entitlements and health services; understanding health priorities; care-seeking; social, economic and gender constraints on decision-making related to health; and health information (based on a curriculum which addresses health in a life-cycle perspective and includes mental health issues). Early childhood care and development (ECCD) is a part of this curriculum.  

As Belaku’s key focus areas are infant growth and nutrition, breast-feeding and maternal care, it has been actively engaged in applied health research.  It has conducted a longitudinal study of infant growth and nutrition that was supported by UNICEF, New Delhi. The aim of this study was to understand feeding and care practices that contribute to early growth faltering and subsequent malnutrition.  Over 400 children were studied monthly over 24 months. It evaluated the effect of community nutrition education on the growth of these infants, and on feeding and care behaviour. One of the objectives was to draw attention to the importance of the 0-2 years age window in a child’s growth and development. ICDS does not address this age group. Since malnutrition prevalence peaks before 24 months of age, it is critical that policies and programmes address this population of young children.
It has analysed the outcomes associated with nutrition education; associations with breast-feeding duration, child morbidity, and care-seeking; and the influence of caste, gender, economic status and availability of health services on maternal and child health.
Belaku has training videos and manual on infant care and feeding for dissemination to other groups working in ECCD. It hopes to develop an on-going training programme.

As a member of FORCES, Karnataka, it has conducted an evaluation of anganwadis in 13 villages in Kanakapura Taluk. Belaku Trust is also a member of the Medico-Friends Circle.

Belaku plans to work intensively on community-based programmes such as:

  • income-generating programmes to improve the economic status of women.
  • dai (midwife) training programme to increase trained attendants at birth.
  • nutrition counselling so that lack of information is not a cause of poor health
  • training programme for local men and women to be health facilitators

Belaku hopes to pursue ECCD by empowering families through awareness of healthy practices and use of services. It hopes to strengthen its current interaction with the anganwadi staff, ANMs and PHC staff; and work with the ICDS programme in a more formal, supportive capacity to improve its services.  

Belaku has several publications and training resources on infant growth and nutrition and maternal and child health. Belaku Training Videos promote breast-feeding and complementary feeding. It has quantitative and qualitative research expertise. It welcomes ideas for advocacy and collaboration on ICDS; and in promoting the health of children especially in the 0-2 years age group.  It would appreciate information on health training materials and sources of funding.

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