Access to healthcare is rare in the Thar Desert and often families not only lack the admission but also the resources to provide themselves with nutritious food and healthcare. In order to change that and to improve their quality of life we are working with a number of different methods; let’s take a closer look at a couple of them and how we operate in the marginalized mining areas around Jodhpur.
Distribution of Vitamin A
As of 2013, 62% of the Indian children under the age of 6 were reported to be deficient in vitamin A. This deficiency often occurs among poor families who cannot ensure a balanced diet with foods rich in the vitamin. Rajasthan, one of India’s poorest states, accordingly has a very high rate of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). This has a high impact on the overall health status of affected children, with VAD being the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness, such as xerophthalmia and night blindness. Furthermore a deficiency weakens the immune system and thereby increases the risk of childhood mortality and diseases like diarrhea. As a means to decrease these partly life threatening risks among children we supply them with vitamin A. Twice a year we drive to remote villages and provide all children until the age of six with the vital nutrient.
Preventing the spread of worm infestations
Furthermore we supply these children with medicine that fights and prevents a variety of parasitic worm infestations. These infestations have a negative impact on their nutritional and health status since they can cause internal bleeding, loss of appetite, dysentery, fever and reduce of the absorption of micronutrients. In general all these symptoms are not mortal but can become for the young and weak in the Thar, which is why we are working towards their extinct.
Trainings for Mineworkers on T.B. and Silicosis
As a part of our Advocacy work we educate mineworkers on the control and prevention of Tuberculosis (TB) and Silicosis. Miners are rarely provided with the needed safety equipment during work, leaving them with no choice but to inhale the dust that builds up to crystals in their lungs, also known as silicosis a perilous ailment that often leads to death.
Tuberculosis –an airborne disease- is among the leading death causes in the Thar due to poor hygiene practices and deprived living conditions. Even though it can be cured if diagnosed and treated early, many villagers lack the knowledge, the financial means and the access to facilities in their surroundings, resulting in the death of most of them. Within our trainings we provide information on the danger of working in the mines, offer diagnosis for mineworkers, and educate villagers on preventive measures and the treatment of TB. Within the past year we have educated 577 mineworkers on these issues.
So far, we cannot provide every inhabitant in the Thar with the vital nutrients, health check ups and knowledge they deserve but we are doing our best to improve the lives of the people we are working with and to expand our coverage in the future.
*by Anna Gall, Volunteer