Health is Wealth..!

SWATCH BHARATH ABHIYAN – CLEAN INDIA MISSION

Seema sat anxiously with her daughters as they waited for their turn at a local dispensary near their village. She was worried about her children’s health and also about her wages as she had not been going to work since a week. Seema and her husband toil from dusk to dawn to meet both the ends. They wanted their daughters to have a better future, so they made sure that Pinky (7yrs) and Mintu (10yrs) would go to school and study well. They lived in a backward village in South 24 Parganas in West Bengal which is not easily accessible due to limited road connectivity and also the infrastructural facilities in these areas are inadequate.

Pinky and Mintu were very active, they would go to school together, play and recite poems and stories they have learned at school to their parents. Things went well until both the children started falling sick. It started with fever and then aggravated with diarrhea and dizziness. The parents would get them treated every now and then, but Pinky and Mintu were only becoming weaker, because of which they were not able to go to school regularly. Seema and her husband were growing weary about their children’s health and future.

It was during this time, when Seema attended a workshop on “Sanitation Impact on Health Benefits” conducted in her village by Diocesan Board of Social Service Barrackpore. The workshops created awareness on issues of open defecation; causes of different diseases like typhoid, cholera, diarrhea; and importance of hand washing and keeping themselves clean. They also shared information regarding the Government Scheme ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and its provisions. Through the workshop, she came to know about the ill effects of open defecation – which her family along with almost the entire village practiced. She realized that open defecation and cleanliness related issues could be a cause of her children’s frequent sickness.

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The workshop left her with lots of questions and confusions. She talked to her neighbors regarding the same and found that many did not agree with idea of using toilets. The villagers had been practicing open defecation for years and had been taught by generations to do so. It was difficult for them to accept this change and most importantly defecating in the toilets attached to their house. It was during the household counseling conducted by the DBSS staff that Seema and some of her neighbors were sensitized more towards the cause and impact of open defecation on their health, the number of labour days they miss, the daily wage they loose, their future generation’s health and well being etc.

Seema was now determined to change her lifestyle for their better health and future of her children. She made use of the provisions of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and got a toilet built in her house. Many others in the village like Seema’s family has given up the habit of defecating in the open, they now use their newly constructed toilet and take care of their cleanliness. Pinky and Mintu’s health is improving slowly and they have started going to school regularly. As a result of the efforts of the awareness programs and campaigns conducted by DBSS Barrackpore, 40 toilets were built in the villages of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. The villagers have themselves seen the result of keeping themselves and their environment clean; they are setting an example to other villages nearby by encouraging and motivating others to change their routine for the betterment of their children and community.

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