In a video published on 9th August 2012, IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Saroj Paraste uncovered abysmal conditions of maternal and child health care in Sakhri Village, Madhya Pradesh. The villagers had not seen the appointed Nurse Mid-wife, Kalpana Patel and Multi Purpose Health Worker, Baldev Bhavedi since 24th September 2010.
The video resulted in action being taken against the errant workers and has now ensured that the 137 families of Sakhri which includes 295 women and 66 children receive the health care they require on a regular basis.
This is how it happened…
“I had gone to Sakhri as a part of the work I do for another NGO. In one of the meetings, the villagers were talking about all their problems and the lack of proper healthcare was one of them. At this first meeting the general mood was one of defeat. They felt that they couldn’t do anything about the situation,” says Saroj.
A report by the Department of Public Health & Family Welfare shows that Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of maternal deaths in the country with 269 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. This situation is the result of low literacy levels, economic inequity, societal norms and attitudes of communities and service providers teamed with inadequate availability of health infrastructure and resources.
“It was important for these issues to be raised and it took some work but I managed to convince the residents of Sakhri to come together to make a video on the absence of the NM and MPW. They soon realised that there was strength in coming together and came forward to speak about the problems they were facing. There were a number of women who had had repeated miscarriages and a number of stillbirths” says Saroj.
In a village like Sakhri the presence of health workers is even more important. The nearest hospital is about 25 KM away and very often there are accidents when women travel that distance in rickety vans on bumpy roads.
Once the video was published, Saroj got in touch with various authorities on the ground to get their support to rectify the situation. She was met with immediate and unflinching support at each level.
“The Block Programme Manager, NHRM was upset when he heard about this. He did carry out a small investigation but it took some time for more concrete steps to be taken,” Saroj tells me.
But it wasn’t long before an entire battalion of health workers descended on Sakhri to make up for lost time. Rohit Dongre, the Vaccination Officer, Jabalpur initiated this visit on 25th August 2012. They found old records which confirmed once again that no health workers had visited the village in over 2 years.
In the mean time, the Nurse Mid-wife and Multi purpose Health Worker were taken to task, which included an official complaint and disciplinary hearing. An interim team was set up to ensure that those in need of vaccinations as well as pre and post-natal care got it. Eventually the health workers were reinstated.
Tania Deviah, Video Volunteers’ Impact Manager points out that Saroj’s video and the consequent impact is a great example of how community voices can be brought to officials. “It was great to see the officials taking the video made by Saroj and using it in a positive way to make a change in the system instead of getting defensive about the situation”.
“It feels great to have produced this video. The people were very hesitant at first to come forward. But they know now that their voice is as important as anyone else’s. When everyone comes together there is no doubt that eventually the right thing will happen.” Says Saroj.
A group of migrant labourers had to walk several hundred kilometres and spend days in a Madhya Pradesh quarantine centre without any facilities.