Impact Story

Community Journalism brings Tuberculosis Clinic to a Mumbai Slum

A community member fights to get proper medical access for Kavita, a Tuberculosis patient in Mumbai

Just walking a few steps would leave Kavita Madhukar Patole gasping for air. So how was the teenager to walk five kilometres twice a week from her home in a Mumbai slum in Sathe Nagar to the government health centre in Govandi to get her drugs? Kavita had been suffering from tuberculosis for three years and had reached a critical stage.

India has the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in the world. In 2015 alone, India saw 2.8 million cases of tuberculosis, more than a fifth of the 10.4 million cases registered globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Between 2006 and 2014, the most recent statistics available, the Indian government spent USD 340 billion combatting the disease. And advances in treatment are often stilted by drug shortages.

Eighteen-year-old  Kavita from Sathe Nagar in Mumbai had been suffering from tuberculosis for three years. The government provides free drugs to tuberculosis sufferers, as long as they show up in person. At first, the five-kilometer trek wasn’t a problem for the girl. But as she declined, frequent hospitalisations and the long commute took a financial toll on her and her family. In all Rs 1.5 lakh rupees (USD 2240) was spent on her treatment in the three years since she was diagnosed.

Seeing Kavita’s distress at being forced to walk this distance as her lungs fill with fluid, slowly drowning the emaciated girl, Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare made a video story on Kavita and screened it for the local municipal councillor. As a result, a tuberculosis clinic opened in Kavita's locality. Kavita was a beneficiary of this as were many in her community. Unfortunately for Kavita, she did not make a full recovery and passed away six months after the clinic opened due to the advanced stage of the disease. But her community can now access tuberculosis treatment and many more lives are being saved.

Even where policies are in place, healthcare delivery to patients, especially in slums, remains a major challenge in India. Stories like that of Kavita get lost in the din of competing statistics and data. With a 1000 people dying every day due to a disease that is treatable in its early stages, the government has a lot to answer for.  

Video by Amol Lalzare | Article by Madhura Chakraborty

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