It’s often been a talking point when people discuss development and AID in the developing world – diseases and health/healthcare play quite a big part and rightly so.
The other day I went to visit a Dr who is being supported by an organisation called “A Touch of Love”, a not-for-profit which runs many projects or finances a lot of projects in and around the area I was staying in near Ahmednagar in the Maharashtra state of India.
I wanted to find out more about the exact diseases/illness’ that are prevalent in rural India and also what affects them. What are the main killers and what is the government doing. Here’s what I learnt…
The village that I went to is one of two that the local clinic doctor is paid to visit by the NGO “A touch of love”.
The Dr visits each village once a month to administer medical help or, if necessary, take them back to his clinic to get them checked out properly. If the issues are extremely serious then he will take them to the hospital in his car for proper treatment – resources are scarce, and whilst he has a lot of facilities and medicines the more expensive equipment isn’t something he’s managed to aquire.
On average the doctor says once a month in each village he normally sees between 10-50 people, babies, mothers, fathers, children and grandparents. He juggles this with his own practice.
The main illnesses in this specific area of rural India are:-
This is normally caught due to poor health or immunity to the virus. If caught early enough, I have been assured it can apparently be easily treated with antibiotics. This can be caught various ways, one of which is by inhaling some of the dirt which gets caught in the air on the dirt roads as a lot of different germs etc find their way there. (quite disconcerting as it happens a lot even though I’ve had all my recommended jabs)
This is purely gained by the extreme amounts of physical manual labor that is carried out by men and women on a day to day basis. From carrying large loads of water/food/wood on their heads back to the villages for the women, to working on the farm, attending to crops / livestock or just walking long distances to getting anything done. Some lucky enough have motorbikes or enough money for autorickshaws but this again is quite rare.
This can apparently be caught by eating some of the food. I’ve been assured that most of it is alright, but when visiting rural areas in India or just visiting India in general you should always have the jabs. This can also be got from poor sanitation. Something which isn’t really readily available in India and therefore isn’t done is washing hands. Germs picked up during the day whether by dirt, petting animals or even going to the loo etc are all freely transferred throughout the day due to lack of sanitation and use of soap.
Unfortunately a bit of a catch 22. One of the biggest killers and issues healthwise is due to Malaria. Whilst a lot of people are fine it is caught a lot in farmers. Mosquitoes normally hang around the farmers livestock which then transfer the disease easily to the nearby farmers. The problem is that this is obviously their livelihood, something they depend on which can come with devastating consequences, especially as the men, who in such a conservative culture earn a lot of the money as the head of the house.
Rural Maharashtra has gone through two major droughts in the last two years making farming and creating/earning enough to eat a constant uphill struggle. Last year there was apparently 14 inches of rain through the “monsoon” period. This means tankers of water are being shipped around by trucks but at a cost of about 3,000 rupees a tanker per day to keep crops watered.
This was the case for one project, supported again by “A touch of love”, the not-for-profit that I mentioned in my earlier post who would use a tanker a day to sustain the NGO’s 100 mango trees. Children and Adults are struggling to get enough together to feed themselves and whilst they are getting by, if this years monsoon continues the recent trend things will obviously get worse.
The sexually transmitted disease is on the decline with government lead initiatives starting to take place to educate people about the disease. That said India has a culture of large families, something which experts say is in correlation to extreme poverty.
The government apparently also provide for free to every child three jabs which are Diptheria, Polio and the BCG jab.
The biggest issues he sees on a day-to-day basis are Arthritis and Malaria. Arthritis is much more common in women, something he attributes to genes and manual labor, although men do just as much manual labor their bodies are apparently more able to cope with the strains and stresses. Apparently about 60/70% of all men and women he sees have or develop arthritis.
As a result of external funding this service is all free, which is of great benefit as you can imagine to most. But wouldn’t be supported or in place without external funds as, from what I’ve been told the government don’t have the proper infrastructure and funding in place to provide these services to everyone nationally either due to funding but also the long distances and basic means between communities and well equipped hospitals.