In India, a floating clinic brings needed care
Project brings diabetes care to the fishermen and honey hunters of West Bengal.
Life is difficult in West Bengal’s Sunderban area. Most residents are poor, and their work - fishing and honey hunting – are dangerous. Fishermen face storms and accidents, while many honey hunters die in tiger attacks, a common event in Sunderban’s mangrove forests.
“This area is predominantly inhabited by the people belonging to marginalised communities, and it reels from inaccessibility, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and economic stagnation,” says Archana Mandal from the Jujersa Women and Child Welfare Organization.
Now a new danger has arrived on Sunderban’s shores. Tourism has brought processed foods to the area, and these new temptations - combined with a lifestyle that’s heavy on rice and light on exercise (fishing and honey hunting are seasonal, with long idle periods) – have caused diabetes rates to surge.
Yet state and district hospitals are inaccessible to many who live here, and there is no government programme for diabetes prevention and care at the village level. “The poor and vulnerable people living in the remote and far off villages and islands here are at the mercy of the village healers, who may exploit them,” Ms. Mandal says.
A new WDF project - Reaching the unreached through diabetes prevention and care, WDF15-1241 - is responding with a boat clinic bringing care to those who need it most.
The project, which targets the 54,000 poorest residents of part of the North 24-Parganas district, is now well under way. It held its first awareness and screening events in mid-2016, where 948 people were diagnosed with diabetes. They, and others needing diabetes care, were then referred to the boat clinic which visited soon after.
The staff on the small vessel - one doctor and two community health workers - offered diabetes counselling and care. Those in need of more advanced care were referred to local hospitals collaborating with the project. Data was registered so that patients’ progress can be followed during follow-up visits.
“This innovative project approach is new to the WDF portfolio, and I hope that the boat clinic proves to be a successful and cost-effective way to bring access to diabetes prevention and care to remote and river-locked areas of West Bengal,” says Mette Skar, WDF’s programme manager working with the project. “This project is on track to significantly improve the lives of these previously unserved populations.”
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SEE A SLIDESHOW with images from the creation and rollout of WDF15-1241