By Famine Advocate Lee Ling
Day 3 & 4 in India: Eye-opening
Before we embarked on our trip to India, we have been warned to expect the unexpected. I wasn’t too worried as I thought that poverty wasn’t anything that is too new to me. After all, I have been to third world countries, I have been to the 30-Hour Famine camps and I have fasted for 30 hours straight. But I was dead wrong. My experience over these few days was really intense and eye-opening.
More than half of the children here were malnourished, underweight and physically and mentally stunted.
Shue Xin measuring a child under the Umang Program. This program is implemented by World Vision to tackle malnourishment among the children.
Even the cows here are severely malnourished.
People are using filthy water for bathing, laundry, washing cutlery and everything else. As a result, they have skin problems and diarrhoea.
One of the pools where they get water from.
The villagers here stay in houses made with mud and fortified with dried cow dung, bamboos and woods. However, mud houses are fragile and will be easily destroyed when there are heavy rains or floods. The poorer ones are not able to repair their houses if it requires woods/bamboos as these costs money. They are also not allowed to chop trees (if any) as these are from a reserved forest. Throughout the trip, we have seen people applying new layer of mud and dung to their houses which seems to be quite a routine.
A few houses will share a tiny toilet normally made of out dried hay and plastic bags. There is no sewerage system. In this particular toilet, the waste will fall from the tree to the tree roots and ground below.
The water pumps where they get underground water for drinking. Children and women would have to fetch water at least twice a day and walk about 15 minutes or more.
Dried cow dungs are used as burner for them to cook as they could not afford coal, oil or even woods. Many ladies are seen drying and handling cow dungs during the day. The dungs here are flattened and molded into sticks.
There is no electricity in this village and people rely on oil lamps. It is extremely dangerous as it can easily catch a fire if it’s accidentally knock over. There was a little girl who we met with severely deformed hands as she was burnt in the fire.
Over these two days, we have visited 3 families and an ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) center.
A toddler from the ICDS center. The children here are so irresistibly endearing even though a lot of them are malnourished.
The advocates preparing food for the children at the ICDS center. World Vision provides nutritional food for the children here.
One of the families which we visited was Purnima’s family. Her family is extremely poor and hunger is a daily occurance for them. Her family survives on a meagre income of 1000 rupees a month (approximately RM57).
Purnima is malnourished like many girls in her village. She is very very thin, soft-spoken and often clings to her mother. We noticed that her head was always hung low and she would look at us with her eyes looking slightly upwards. She was also slower to respond. We knew that these are some of the effects of malnourishment on her. Purnima also falls sick very often and she suffers from typhoid, heart problem and skin disease.
Purnima and me
We followed her to fetch water, which is her twice a day routine. She bought along a water container and she supported it on the side of her waist and with her hands. We walked briskly and it took us about 10 mins to reach the water pump. She was barefooted and we walked across a dried up mud field. They told us that during the rainy season, the whole area will become muddy and walking will be really tough. Wearing shoes is impossible as the shoes will be sticking to the mud.
Kang Yong helps Purnima with the water container. This is quite a strenuous task for Purnima as she is weak and would always feel very tired.
Delivering food from World Vision to Purnima’s family.
Despite the differences of language, skin colour, background and everything else, it’s still very heartbreaking when we see the sufferings of the people here, especially children. If only more people could start GIVING then children like Purnima would have a better future.