What does it take for a community to walk the way forward, in spite of all its traditional restraints and cultural obligations? When do you move on from one milestone to the next one?
Honestly? I don’t know. But over a conversation with G the other day, I wondered whether vision and acceptance at various levels would be the key to the long term development of a community. I must explain here.
Ten years ago, G and Tha, with the community, arrived at a new model for development in the health sector. Back then in the Sittilingi Valley, there were no roads for the public transport to ply on, resulting obviously in a woeful lack of access to healthcare for the tribals. The families were ignorant in areas of hygiene and health, more so in maternal health. That was leading to high rates of infant and mother mortality rates. It wasn’t always enough to ensure that there was a hospital to come to. For a more wholesome development, the tribals had to be educated in healthcare as well. Thus was born the idea for the health auxiliaries (HA).
Many, many meetings later, one motivated, interested woman was chosen from every village and was given training for a year in basic healthcare, maternal and neo-natal care, etc. She would be the contact point for the tribals, someone trained to deal with immediate health issues. During her rounds to homes, she would also teach the tribals hygiene and other necessaries.
The model took off like a charm and over the last ten years, there has been almost a complete turnaround in the way the tribals perceive health. The infant mortality is extremely low, there are no cases of malnutrition and on several parameters, the model became an astounding success.
Ten years later, there were many meetings again to review the program. G tells me that several conditions that existed ten years ago are no longer valid. Better access, better roads, better knowledge: these cancel out the very reasons why the HA program was put in place.
And so we have some changes under way at Sittilingi. The HA program is being discontinued. In their place, a community worker will be appointed, though several modalities are yet to be worked out. The vision with which the model started to be tested has grown beyond the perimeters of the valley. The villages will not have HAs anymore.
But. There is always an ‘if’ or a ‘but’, isn’t it!? Though the HA program is being stopped in the valley, the very same model is going to be taken up the Kalrayan Hills where work has only just begun. Last year, the THI team surveyed the villages and many meetings later, over 20 women started getting the one-year long training. There are now 16 of them left, some dropping out, some migrating and some having roads from their villages washed away in the rains!
Mid-April is when we hope to begin active work with the HAs there in the hills. The health workers are much more experienced now than they were ten years ago when they themselves were among the newbies. The model has been tested and found feasible. The addition this time, G tells me, is that the program will run only for a maximum of five years, with a progress review in the third year to see if the objectives are being met or not.
The model may be old, but the women are new. There are many logistical challenges up in the hills. The tribals are yet to completely open up to the team. As always, it is a new, and interesting, challenge. In our continued endeavour and vision to make the lives of tribals a little better, we, as always, thank you, dear friends, for your support and constant encouragement.