India – Health Volunteers in New Delhi

Date: 21.04.2013
Category: Health, Travel

New Delhi has a population of 17 million. 8 million of these people live in poverty in slums like Jehangipuri.

Residents like those below try hard to keep their environment clean, but even in the dry season, open sewers overflow, spilling raw effluent into the streets. A lack of toilets means that 70% of defecation is in the open. Little wonder that diarrhoea is responsible for half of infant mortality. If you bear in mind that a fifth of all child mortality is in India you can see how simple improvements in housing and sanitation in India could lead to a significant drop in child deaths worldwide.

Filming with Save the Children, I spent 4 days in these slums with health volunteers who are working hard in their own communities to improve vital access to healthcare and better sanitation.

Satyavati Singh is an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) with 31 years experience working in her local community. She says that she loves to help local women and children stay healthy. Her Daughter Antima is a Community Health Volunteer.

Durgesh  Mavour, 33, is an Community Health Volunteer in her local community. She says that she loves to help local women and children stay healthy. Both work with Nav Srishti an NGO which is supported by Save the Children.

Kirin Sahani, 20, plays a leading role in a Community Health & Sanitation Group that was initiated by Save the Children in 2010. The group of women and girls are supported by Community Health Volunteers and have already had some major achievements and brought about changes from the community. Through the group, Kiran has been going house to house to identify pregnant women and accompany them to the mobile health van for antenatal checks or put them in touch with the Community Health Volunteers who arrange immunisation, nutrition supplements and other services.

Below you can see Durgesh deliver a talk to mothers about sanitation in the only available space – next to an open sewer.

With such an obvious need, Community Health Worker success stories are everywhere.

Sudari is one of the many children in Lal Bagh, a slum community in Northern Delhi, who were immunised against polio during a national drive to eradicate the disease. Usha said that she gets her baby immunised to keep her safe. She moved to Delhi 2 months ago from a village in Uttar Pradesh in the hope for a better life. When Usha and her family moved to Delhi, an ASHA came to her house and took the family’s details so that they could be informed about the health services that are available. Usha ensured that Sundari was immunised in her village and is happy that she can receive further immunisations from the ASHAs. Thanks to Polio drives like this the disease has almost been eradicated from India.

Kirishna has twin boys, Love and Kush, who she breastfed exclusively for 6 months and continues to breastfeed, with supplements following the advice of Community Health volunteers. She also uses the Save the Children mobile clinic. She lives with 7 people in two rooms behind the families vegetable stall.  She said: “My name is Krishna. I live in B – 199, Sarai. There are a total of 7 members in my family. They are: my mother in-law, my father in-law, my sister in-law (my husband’s sister), my brother in-law (my husband’s younger brother) and my husband. I was pregnant when I went for a check-up at the M.H.U. Van. There Satyavatiji helped me a lot; got me registered in the hospital; so then I came to know that I was carrying twins. So then I went for a full check-up and delivery at the hospital itself. Now my children are 9 months old.  One of them is malnourished. I now get food for my children from Anganwadi and weigh them every 15 days and M.H.U and C.H.V are helping a lot.”

Gulecha 30, and her daughter, Minashi, 10mths in their home in Sarai North, a district of Jehangirpuri in North Delhi where she lives with her husband and 3 children.  They pay 1000 rupees rent for there 2m x 3m room out of her husbands 5000 rupee salary. Both she and Minashi are malnourished, but she is thankful to their ASHA, Satyavati, for keeping them healthy. Minashi was the first of her children to receive a birth certificate. He is up to date on immunisations and all her children get supplements from the local Anganwadi (courtyard centre). She doesn’t want more children and receives condoms from her health worker.

Laksmi Bai, 83, Traditional Birth attendant in the Lal bad Slum area of North Delhi. She has delivered 3 generations of children in her local community her daughter Reika is also a TBA.

The energy and passion of the men and women working to improve their own communities was truly inspiring. Without the support of international organisations, like Save the Children, these people would not be able to do their life saving work.

Raj Yagnik