The long queue of people waiting at the village health care center made her sick. She had to travel 50 KMs to get to this distant government health care center. People flocked with their ailing children. Filthy dirt, unhygienic instruments – that was the sorry state of almost all village health centers in this part of the country. Prema sat on the floor with her 7 year old Babli waiting for the doctor. Little Babli has been sick for past few days – neither her fever was improving nor the bouts of vomiting.
“What has happened to your daughter?”
“Vomiting, fever,” answered a nervous Prema.
“Jaundice” said the health practitioner looking at Babli’s eyes closely.
“Was she eating with dirty hands?”
“No doctor sahiba”
“Is she going to a proper toilet? Where does she go for toilet?”
“In the fields,” replied her mother.
“That is where the problem is. If you send your child to defecate in open fields, this is bound to happen. Please understand it is very unhygienic, today she has caught this jaundice, tomorrow something else might happen”
“But then… doctor sahiba that is what everyone does in our village”
Dr. Reshma was left shocked to hear this. The more she got to know about these distant villages the sorrier she felt for these villagers. This was her first assignment in rural India and the sorry state of health and hygiene made her feel sick.
“Prema it is very important that Babli goes to a proper toilet and not some field for defecation. Why only Babli, everyone should go to a hygienic toilet, else they could catch a disease tomorrow. She is seven years old, in a few years she will be a young girl, and it isn’t safe for her to go to the fields alone in the morning to defecate”
Dr. Reshma gave little Babli her medicines, but she was more worried about the scores of other children in the village.
“Will you help me Prema?” Dr. Reshma called out as Prema was getting up to leave.
“Prema I want to come to your village and speak to the Pradhan and everyone if possible.”
“Madam, next Monday is our Panchayat Day, every one comes there on Panchayat Day.”
Dr. Reshma made up her mind to visit the village Panchayat. Awareness about the hazards of open defecation was the only way they would understand the risks.
For next few days Dr. Reshma made some charts and flip books with pictures to demonstrate the health risks of open defecation. She was hoping the villagers would understand her.
Dr. Reshma wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome in the village today and she was surprised with the turn out. She learnt she was the first doctor to visit this village. They didn’t have a primary health center and every one had to travel 50 KMs to the other village for a doctor. Dr. Reshma felt bad for them.
“Dear friends how many of your children have been suffering from worms? “
Almost every other woman had raised their hands up.
“How many of your children are suffering from diarrhoea?”
The response was similar.
“Friends, where do you fetch your drinking water from?”
‘Village well, pond, stream’, came out various answers, as expected.
“Do you know why so many children are getting increasingly down with diarehoea and jaundice? It is because for a basic problem in hygiene practice. Defecating in open fields and not using proper methods for cleanliness increases your chances of exposure to harmful bacteria and virus, which results in these dangerous diseases”, she said showing them the charts.
“Defecating in open is not only unhealthy and unhygienic but also has a deep psychological impact as the children go up. There is no privacy”continued Dr. Reshma raising her voice over the murmurs from the gathered crowd.”
“Pradhanji, I request you to create some proper toilets in the village so that no more children suffer because of these unhygienic practices.”
“Madam, we are poor people, we don’t have so much money” said the village Pradhan.
“There are some governmental and non-governmental organizations who can help you in this initiative. You can make some community toilets which everyone in the village can use” she said.
“I can bring to you such people who can help you in building toilets. Clean and hygienic toilet is the right of every person. But I need your help, I need your co-operation, you need to build the toilets for yourself for your healthy future. Are you with me?” Asked Dr. Reshma.
The loud response from the villagers made her happy. That day Dr. Reshma left the village with a promise, a promise to help them build clean toilets.
This post of mine is written in response of the #ToiletFoBabli initiative by Domex through their Domex Toilet Academy. I think it is a very nice and important initiative that Domex and HUL have taken up. With every click in their page Domex will contribute Rs. 5 towards making villages open defecation free. Isn’t that amazing people?
You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on http://www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.