It is a beautiful winter morning. The mood is festive as little children accompanied by their mothers and at time fathers, stream in to the free medical camp organised for the children from the neighbouring slums (Vidhate Vasti) by the Aundh Shakha of the RSS (Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh) in Pune.
Children from the age 2.5 to 15 years are invited to the camp, about 198 turn up at the the camp that goes on well into the afternoon. A team of four doctors listen to their complaints and do a basic clinical examination. Free medicine is provided for ordinary ailments like cough and cold, with nutritional supplements provided wherever necessary. More involved cases are referred for further medical investigation and treatment to other doctors and hospitals.
The free medicines come courtesy the PMC (Pune Municipal Corporation), the doctors offer voluntary service for the day. Volunteers from the RSS contribute their time to spread the message in the community and help around at the medical camp. The cost of such a camp is about Rs 2000-3000, spent in renting the desks and chairs, snacks for the volunteers and sweets for the children.
This camp is the fourth this year organised by the Aundh Shakha of the RSS. The earlier ones organised at Indira Vasti, Kasturba Vasti and Chondhe Vasti brought in about 125-150 children each. A permanent clinic is also set-up at Kasturba Vasti for follow-up check-ups at a minimal registration fee of Rs 10/-
RSS runs hundreds of such camps across Maharashtra and India every year, trying to contribute its bit to alleviating the deficiencies in an important area of Public health - Primary Healthcare and Nutrition for children.
A Study of Prevalence and Household Socio-Economic Determinants of Malnutrition among School Children in Mumbai Metropolitan Region conducted by Sanjay Rode and published in the Global Journal of Human Social Science states that the incidence of malnutrition among school children is higher in slums.
Severe malnutrition among males is higher in Ghatkopar, and among females, it is higher in Kalwa. Highest severe incidence of malnutrition is found among males and females of 6-8 age groups. The children of illiterate mothers have higher incidence of severe malnutrition. But the incidence of severe malnutrition among children is higher, even with the father’s secondary education.
The health status of schoolchildren is related to future physical growth, intellectual capacity and income. But malnutrition at an early stage among children can impact physical growth and intellectual capacity. -The Indian Express
The problem is widespread with IndiaSpend reporting - Up to 86% of the rural population (717 million people) and 82% of the urban population (309 million people) without health expenditure support.
It is therefore laudable that organisations such as the RSS are providing relief through such voluntary efforts.
What is particularly admirable is the breadth of geography and length of time over which such programs have been running e.g. Jankalyan Samiti a self-help organisation affiliated to the RSS has been running free clinics and blood banks for over 25 years now. Or consider that the National Medicos Organisation, also an affiliate of the RSS, is an organisation of qualified doctors and students of allopathic system of medicine, covering all the medical colleges and states in India. Organising and motivating allopathic doctors for serving under-privileged sections of the society, settled in the tribal villages and slum areas across the country. NMO has been active for over 37 years now, running various health check-up programs in schools, free medical camps and carrying out relief work in disaster hit areas.
“We’d like to do more but it is hard to make time. We need more people to give a little of their time to such work.” - It’s not a complaint, the Swayam Sevaks look quite happy going about their work at the camp, clearly motivated by their desire to serve and be of use to their people.