Most of my posts have been mainly on maternal healthcare with very few focus on the children. We all know that in places where maternal health care is poor, child survival is much worse. And it has not been quite different at NJH and the surrounding communities. There are quite a few incidents of still births which happen in the villages and even among deliveries that arrive late to hospital.
However, recently I had a shocker of how prevalent is infant and child deaths in the community.
The above is snap taken on a recent visit to the ancestral village of one of our senior staff. This is the graveyard of the village which is predominantly Christian (almost 100%). Hope you noticed the small mounds of earth (which are many more) compared to the bigger mounds (graves of adults). These small mounds of earth are those of children - - - most of them children. Of course, there are few (very few) mounds which represent revered ancestors.
I've read that the start of collection of vital statistics started from church registers in medieval Europe. The information thus gathered proved to be key in the estimation of birth and death rates.
Considering into fact that churches in these remote villages such as the one I went should be keeping information on Baptisms and Requiem Mass (Mass for the dead), there should be a mine of information out there.
Some more information about the background of the region.
The village is about 5 kms away from the State Highway connecting Mahuadanr and Netarhat. Mahuadanr is 25 kms away and Netarhat 15 kms away. Located on a plateau, the soil is of poor quality. And the water table is quite low (means you have to dig a lot for water - - almost upto 1000 feet)
I saw lot of millets being grown. The villagers informed me that they grow quite a lot of sorghum, samai rice (little millet) and ragi (finger millet). A nice place to start off a project on encouraging millet farming.
Health facilities was a premium. There was poor transport facilities. The nearest proper hospital is in Mahuadanr. Which sort of explains the high number of child and infant graves.
And similar to many such areas, the area is rich in minerals . . . bauxite. One of the major mining companies have set up mines. And it is such thing to see the place especially as you travel to this village.
Almost everything is red. And so dusty. The villagers informed me that there is constant pressure to cede their lands on long lease to the mining companies. Life is tough. There is no electricity in the village. For that, there is no electricity even in Mahuadanr.
From a healthcare point of view, things are bleak. If there is need for secondary care, NJH is the nearest place . . . 135 kilometers. Ranchi is 175 kilometers away. Not an easy thing when someone needs specialised care in this village. And there are quite a few villages, all heavily populated in this area.
After I visited the place, there were villagers requesting this NJH staff to ask me if we could make up a plan for a healthcare and community development facility somewhere near this place. Quite a huge ask . . . But, very relevant request.
One does not need rocket science to prove that that the dead children lying in that grave yard have died of preventable and easily treatable causes. The villagers informed me that a lot of young men and women are also buried there. 2 middly aged men took me to couple of graves and told me that it is of their sons who died of tuberculosis few months back.
Our countrymen dying young in the age of computer science and jet engines should be a matter of concern for each one of us. I can only hope and pray that this post penetrates the hearts of people who read it.
A great opportunity for anyone in public health or community development who want to start from scratch.