It’s one of the world’s fastest growing economies but India still lags behind so-called developed countries in terms of good hygiene and health care. According to Healing Fields, a non-profit organization that helps the poor access medical care in India, only 52% of Indian women have safe deliveries and one out of every 15 children dies before reaching their fifth birthday.
Other statistics are equally disheartening: 52 million children in India are undernourished and only about 10.5% of people have access to community toilets, forcing 626 million people to defecate out in the open. Nearly 80% of women in India do not use sanitary napkins – because of poverty, poor access and lack of awareness.
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of India’s diarrheal diseases is the result of drinking water contamination by poor sanitation.
On a recent visit to Rome where she spoke at the Voices of Faith event in the Vatican in celebration of International Women’s Day, Healing Fields’ Catholic co-founder and Secretary General MuktiBosco told Vatican Radio that while India has become an international hub for quality yet inexpensive, health tourism, the majority of Indians in slums and rural areas has no access to adequate healthcare. She particularly laments the high numbers of unqualified health providers and non-sterile practices in health facilities in rural areas.
Healing Fields designed micro health insurance programs for poor communities in India. “We thought the poor needed financial access and help through hospitalization,” Bosco says; “health insurance does not cover out-patient care. It only covers hospitalization.”
We found that if families didn’t have small amounts of money, even as little as 200-500 rupees (less than $10.00), Bosco says, “they just delayed going to a healthcare provider and because they delayed it, complications set in. Or even if they went to their healthcare provider, they did not have money to buy the whole course of medication. And therefore, they just bought enough for two or three days and stopped it – and then the disease is not cured, complications set in and then they have to be admitted to hospital.”