A Primary Health Centre in Chhattisgarh was running without regular water supply for three years, affecting the health and well-being of about ten villages.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) spell out the objectives and targets for a world without hunger and poverty, a world with equitable access to quality resources and a world with peace and social justice. The 17 SDGs are all interconnected, and India’s performance on one will affect the other, as Community Correspondent Bhan Sahu’s report on water availability at a rural health centre illustrates.
The lack of water at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Bhadrakala village in Chhattisgarh’s Balod district was affecting both the centre’s quality of care and people’s access to healthcare. The centre caters to at least 10 villages in a 12-kilometre radius, and has facilities for maternal and child care. For a person already in need of medical attention, travelling up to 12 kilometres to spend a long day at a PHC with no water, is neither feasible nor safe. As a result, the PHC was getting fewer patients, especially women in need of reproductive care.
“We used to have 1-2 deliveries every month because of the lack of water,” says Ahuti Mandal, a nurse at the PHC. Aman Verma, the doctor on duty, says that they were arranging for water for delivery in buckets from nearby places.
Quality of healthcare is known to be an important factor in deciding whether or not to access a health facility at all, especially for women. And by choosing not to access one because of water or by being given unsafe care, maternal health is also severely compromised upon, a step back on yet another Sustainable Development Goal, that of lowering MMR (maternal mortality rate) to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Currently, India records 130 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
After Bhan made a video on the issue, she also approached the Assistant Engineer at the Public Health Engineering Department of Balod, along with the hospital authorities. The Department constructed a borewell which is now being used to pump water to the overhead tank and the Centre finally has running tap water.
The provision of a basic yet crucial facility like water immediately brought the number of deliveries up to 6-7 a month. While this may be a small change in the larger scheme of things, it is ground-level changes like these that make way for the achievement of big goals and targets. More institutional deliveries mean a lower risk of maternal deaths, helping us inch closer to the big MMR target of 70.
Although the staff and the patients are now happy with the water situation, one wonders if it will be a sustainable one. When the PHC building was being constructed in 2015, a borewell was also constructed but it soon dried up. With the help of the Panchayat, another borewell was dug and soon enough, that one dried up too. After this, the PHC was arranging for water from a neighbouring well, but when that didn’t last either, a water tanker was arranged to supply water to the overhead tank directly. The groundwater level in Balod is not very high, which makes one think about the sustainability of yet another borewell.
The philosophy behind the SDGs is not only to ensure universal and equitable availability of resources and opportunities, but also their sustainability, and crises like the one in Bhadrakala must be dealt with through lasting alternatives. Multiple government schemes like the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, the Nal Jal Yojana and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are working towards Goal 6 of the SDGs- Water and Sanitation, but they must look beyond achieving numerical targets and ensuring quality and sustainability.
Video by Community Correspondent Bhan Sahu
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team