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Chennai: Seva Mandir, a 40-year-old non-governmental organization, began working with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in 2003 to evaluate full immunization levels among children in and around Udaipur.

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Even after four decades of work, the number of fully immunized children in the area was a shocking 3% due to absent nurses and indifferent parents. J-PAL recommended that Seva Mandir get mobile vaccination teams to conduct monthly immunization camps, on fixed days and at a scheduled time, in 60 randomly chosen hamlets. Nurses running the camps were paid only on attendance. In half of these hamlets, parents were offered 1kg of lentils for each of their children’s scheduled vaccinations. On fully immunizing their child, they received a steel plate and a tumbler.

In 18 months, the percentage of fully immunized one-year-olds in hamlets where no incentives were offered, jumped to 17.5% from just 5.3%. In colonies where parents were offered lentils, the figure soared to 37%. The annual cost per fully immunized child for the group that offered incentives was Rs1,102—or just half the running cost of the control group.

“When we first gave this example, people in the government were like, ‘Whoa! We never do incentives’," said Iqbal Dhaliwal, a director of policy for J-PAL. “But incentives could offer incredible value for your money."

anupama.c@livemint.com

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