India lives in its villages. All of us were taught that in school. What we weren’t taught was that much of India does not live very happily.
We often see idyllic pictures of rural Indian life– stunningly beautiful images of rice fields rippling in the wind and children swinging from Banyan trees in the village square. However, the harsh reality is that one third of those men and women working in the fields are chronically starved and one half of those children swinging from the trees are permanently stunted from undernutrition. One out of every ten babies born never makes it to its first birthday.
India, home to one-sixth of mankind, is also home to one-third of all tuberculosis patients in the world. More than 300,000 children drop out of school every year because someone in their family comes down with tuberculosis and an extra income is needed to make ends meet. In fact, 25% of families of hospitalised individuals in Bilaspur fall below the poverty line due to hospital expenses.
Crisis of Rural Health
Most of India’s people, and most of its poor, still live in rural India. The burden of disease and its effects are disproportionately seen among the poor, with a clear gradient in illness and mortality between the lower and middle classes. This rural health crisis is becoming more complex and tenacious and is worsening the quality of life in rural India.
Of all the forms of injustice, inequality in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.
– Martin Luther King
There is a widely prevalent myth that people in rural areas have small health problems that can be addressed by a minimally staffed and equipped health centre.
The experience of running the Outpatient Department (OPD) at Ganiyari has completely debunked this illusion. People come with a bewildering diversity of problems from HIV to advanced tuberculosis, from uncontrolled diabetes with a low body weight and a badly infected wound to severe malaria, from cancer of the cervix, a B.P. of 240/140 diagnosed for the first time in life, to burns sustained after falling in the fire after a convulsion.
Regardless of the problem, the underlying stories are most often the same: profound susceptibility because of associated undernutrition, delayed health care seeking because of difficulties of physical access, dissatisfaction with non-functioning or poorly functioning public health facilities, or problems exacerbated by irrational care by an unqualified practitioner.
In rural areas, there is widespread hunger, high levels of morbidity, and a vast unmet need for curative health care. Without anyone to advocate for the people who live in such conditions, the high numbers of premature deaths lead only to the further marginalization of these populations and trivialization of their problems.
The following are some of the major issues we see among our patient population and are working to address: