Actress Ashley Jensen tells us about her experiences visiting the slums of Delhi with Save the Children...
There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for entering the Sanjay colony slum in Delhi. The assault on your senses that India provides is overwhelming. The soundtrack of car horns, the hot muggy air; it's busy, its noisy and its constantly moving. I had never been to India before, let alone one of the largest, most renowned slums in the north east of Delhi.
Between three and four of all deaths among children under five years old are caused by complications and infections during and shortly after birth, as well as preventable illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria.
I was working with Save the Children, which has been reaching out to these communities and helping to educate women on the symptoms of childhood illnesses. The organisation also encourages these womento visit the healthcare trucks that come to the slums five days a week and to attend the healthcare clinic which sets up once a month.
At Sanjay I met Rekha, she had lived in the slum but was now a health worker. Rekha was passionate about passing on the knowledge she had received from health workers. Although she had no previous training, she had a huge capacity to care and help others, and this led to her receiving training to become a health worker by Save the Children in India.
It costs a just £100 to train a health worker who will have the capacity to help and save the lives of thousands of women and children every year. Rekha is now studying for her Masters degree in social work.
The mobile health truck is such a simple idea and to see it in practice; functioning brilliantly and so well attended was truly inspiring. Knowing that there is someone there to help, advise, administer simple medications is a huge comfort.
The health workers I met work tirelessly within these hugely populated slums in Delhi educating women on nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, birth control, monitoring babies, vaccinating babies, showing them what signs to look for in potentially life-threatening illnesses like diarrhea, skin diseases that are left untreated, and pneumonia. India has the highest number of cases of childhood pneumonia in the world often - caused by the smoke from cooking in the tiny room, which is often 'home' for a family of up to 10 people.
Illnesses like these are a simple inconvenience to those living in the Western world, but to children in these slum colonies they are a matter of life or death.
It costs £100,000 to run one of the Save the Children health trucks for one year and this would save the lives of thousands of children.
The children played with sticks, tyres, or a piece of polystyrene on a string. They played with each other, they pulled funny faces, they got shy, they got raucous and silly. They have hopes and dreams and needs and wants - and despite having little, they smiled and laughed like children do everywhere.
Having made this trip to Delhi I have seen that we can make a difference and are making a difference by continuing to support Save the Children.
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