Medical CampIn India, there are only 2 physicians for every 50,000 people, far below the US rate of 2.7 physicians for every 1000 people.1

Dalit Solidarity is committed to the belief that quality health care should be available to all people regardless of their economic status. However, for most Dalits, quality health care is unaffordable and inaccessible. Their experience with healthcare providers is usually limited to emergency care.

 

Maternal and Childhood Health

Complications from pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. The maternal mortality ratio is 560 deaths per 100,000 live births. (Rate for industrialized countries is 13/100,000.) For every woman who dies, approximately 20 more suffer injuries, infection and disabilities in pregnancy or childbirth.2 Prenatal care is extremely limited. Only 36% of Indian births are attended by skilled health personnel (doctor, nurse, or midwife).3 Foundations for maternal risk are often laid in girlhood. Women whose growth has been stunted by chronic malnutrition are vulnerable to obstructed labor. 46% of India’s children are underweight and generally, rural children are twice as likely as urban children to be underweight.4 Anemia predisposes women to sepsis and hemorrhage during delivery and has been implicated in 20% of post-partum maternal deaths in Asia.5 About 72% of India’s children are anemic.6

 

HIV/Aids

Between 2,200,000 and 7,600,000 Indians are estimated to be living with HIV. Young people are at the center of the epidemic. 1.3 million young people aged 15-24 are estimated to be living with HIV in South Asia. Adolescent girls and women are especially vulnerable and account for 60% of all HIV-positive young people. In societies like India, girls and women face greater risks of infection than men, because their diminished economic and social status compromises their ability to choose safer and healthier life strategies. The vast majority of young people do not have access to the information, skills and services that are essential for HIV/AIDS prevention. The proportion of young people who do not know how to protect themselves from AIDS or who have misconceptions about the transmission of AIDS is overwhelming, and young women generally have less knowledge than young men. 80% of Indian young women aged 15-24 cannot correctly identify two ways to avoid getting HIV/AIDS and reject three common myths about the virus.7

 

Childhood Mortality

Child mortality is closely linked to poverty. Improvements in public health services are key. Education for girls and mothers will save children’s lives. Raising incomes can help, but little will be achieved unless a greater effort is made to ensure that services reach those who need them most. In India, 56 children per thousand die before reaching the age of five. This compares to a rate of 5/1,000 in industrialized countries. Most of these lives could be saved by utilizing low-cost prevention measures like exclusive breastfeeding for infants, antibiotics for acute respiratory infections, oral re-hydration for diarrhea, immunization, and the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets and appropriate drugs for malaria. Ensuring proper nutrition is part of prevention, because malnutrition increases the risk of dying from these diseases.8

 

Physical and Sexual Abuse

In addition to the health care problems discussed above, women and children in India suffer from an alarming rate of physical and sexual abuse. 20% of married Indian women between the ages of 15 and 45 admit to being physically abused.9 Recent studies indicate that one out of every two children has experienced sexual abuse and two out of every three children have been physically abused.10

Footnotes

  1. UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2006.
  2. WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA, Estimates of maternal mortality for 2000. Statistics subject to large margins of uncertainty.
  3. UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2006.
  4. Id.
  5. Id.
  6. Anbumani Ramadoss, Indian Health Minister, Press Trust of India, 4/30/2007.
  7. UNICEF, 2003.
  8. UNICEF, 2005.
  9. 2005 State of World Population Report, United Nations Population Fund.
  10. National Study on Child Abuse, 2007. Prayas Institute of Juvenile Justice/Indian Ministry of Women & Child Development/UNICEF/Save the Children Fund.