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Volunteer to help Banjara Basti

Health Report on Banjara Basti
By Isa Marie – Volunteer, March 2009

Environment and health determinants
Banjara Basti is located on a rubbish tip and the families in the area live in sheds. Some of the families houses are made of clay soil while others (nomads) live temporary on a blanket under precarious housing conditions. Most of the people live together with domesticated animals and the area also has rats, wild dogs, pigs etc. All these animals will leave their excrement in the environment around the school. Even young children do their nature needs in the surroundings but the rest of Banjara Basti’s population uses the fields or other less crowded places. Further more the soil around the school area is filled with garbage, razorblades, leftovers, small wooden pieces, human spit, small pieces of broken glass, dead rats and some environment have contaminated muddy pools.

The feces constitute a major route for transmission of communicable diseases and the disposal of excreta and other wastes is referred to as sanitation. The environment is surrounded by varying sanitary problems and most of the children walk and play barefoot in this area. The lack of adequate sanitation can also be linked to less ability of washing clothes and some parent’s won’t let their children go to school because they think that the other kids in school are too dirty. However, if families do launder it’s not unusual to see girls, approximately 10 years or younger, doing the laundry for whole family. The kids that don’t go to school spend their days working, looking after younger siblings or take the cattle to the fields etc.

Most of the school children have torn, filthy clothes, their hair are very dirty and hung in tangles yet there is a few kids’ that are clean and neat in spite of the circumstances. This shows that some children have better living condition and that they have an improved home environing and that heir parents/relatives consider hygiene to be significant. The lack of knowledge about why good hygiene is necessary, how micro organism will contaminate a person and how diseases are spread can be due to poor basic information, education and on economic situation. Some families spend their money wrongly or unfairly in the family (consumptions of alcohols or tobacco smoking father) which instead could be used for food or in a healthier way.

The families in the district steal water from the government which means that the water supply is safe until it reach outside the tap. However, families’ knowledge of how to handle water with safety, after it been taped, is not well explained but it can be related to their education level and skills. Nevertheless, it looks like the handling of water safety is to a satisfaction level but still children get stomach related ache and diarrhoea. In addition to water food insecurity might be the vehicles of substances that cause diarrhoea.

A few children show approximately the same measurements as healthy kids but several children are too small and weight too little due to age and this might because of food shortage or/and that the kids are not well nourished. However, the problem is that the diets is similar day after day, contains less micronutrient and full worthy protein plus these children eat a lot of candy /sugar. Lack of access to right quantity of food and specific micronutrients, especially iron, vitamin A and zinc, may lead to malnutrition. Though the most important cause of malnutrition in children is due to infectious diseases because infections increase the nutritional demand and decrease the ability to eat and absorb nutrients from the gut. If the child is malnourished for a longer time it will become less active, less curious and playful and the immune system will impair. Other side effects are stopping in growing and the intellectual capacity will decline. Some children show these symptoms of above and on top of food deficiency several of the kids chew tobacco which affects their health and teeth in a negative way.

In Banjara Basti area some parents/relatives believe in superstition or magic and families accept as true that a child’s health is to be under control of God. This way of thinking can complicate and may give an increased risk to health and infections.

Diseases and skin problem
Several of the children go to school only for a few weeks due to the fact that their family are nomads. These nomads children are the dirtiest and seams to be worst affected by health related diseases. Almost all children are more or less affected by carious and some teeth are in a very poor condition.


The most common disease in the area is upper respiratory tract infection and all children suffer off and on from this illness. The disease involves episodes of cough, fever and runny noses. Some children even get ear and throat infections which can lead to lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia) and these kids are severe sick and have never been seen in school.

The second common disease is skin related due to bacteria or virus. The bacteria staphylococcus aureus is usually the cause to infection and it will gain access into the skin at the site of an abrasion, such as might occur from a scratch or a cut and the wound can often be surrounded by a pocket filled with pus. The wound is usually red, warm, painful and swollen and feet are especially hit to skin infection according to that several children walk barefoot in the dirt but even fingers and hands can be infected.

Several of micro organisms can also be a cause to diarrhoea and the third most common disease is believed to be diarrhoea. Although it has been some difficulties in getting information about this sensitive topic it’s a presuming that it’s widely spread and many children is believed to be affected. Diarrhoea is generally spread from faeces of one person to the mouth of another via food, water or unwashed hands.

A lot of the children suffer from very dry skin, especially the skin on the face which has a very characteristic look but even hands and feet are involved due to be exposed to sun, sand, clay and dirt.

Head lice is also common and are spread by direct contact head to head as well as shared hats, towels or hair brushes. Fore sure there are large number of other diseases and problems in the community and these assumptions are roughly taken.

Summary/Conclusion
Environmental sanitary deficiency together with poor hygiene will cause health problems. The knowledge of how to store water and food safely is significant. Furthermore it is important to know the transmission of diseases and recognize when it’s necessary for a sick child to use medical health service. All this factors are related to education and information of parents or relatives.

An educated mother may sense a lager responsibility for the child than someone who has a more traditional and fatalistic view of health and diseases. She may be less prone to practicing dangerous forms of traditional medicine and demand care for her children from health care personnel. She would also have better compliance with prescribed treatment and a greater decision making role in health related matters. She would give a more nutritious diet and prevent malnutrition and get better access to health information. An educated mother is expected to give basic care to her child and have knowledge about how to treat common diseases. Moreover she most likely would acquire a job and increase the family’s economics and spend a little extra money on health related matters.

Malnutrition, overcrowding, and poor standards of hygiene are important factors accounting for the distribution of skin diseases and to improve the immune system you need extra micronutrient supplement but also meat is a good source to get iron and zinc. Most of the children’s skin infections will probably heal without medical treatment however a few will require incision and drainage along with antibiotics improved hygiene will decrease these occurrences but also reduce the episodes of diarrhoea.

Since some children have difficulties to find motivation and/ or inspiration to live a healthier life it’s of importance to continue assists them with washing and brushing teeth. Because several of the children also show less interest in learning and going to school it’s of significance to encourage them to maintain schooling. It is also of importance to verify poor sight and hearing disability among the kids. Due to the fact that no one of them is using spectacles or hearing aids and according to the population in general, it is most likely that some of the kids are in need of using such means and it is a simple thing to measure as well as it might help the child enormous in developing and schooling.

Diseases
Percentage (approximately)
Carious
90 - 98 %
Upper tract respiratory disease
50 - 70 %
Dry skin
80 - 90 %
Skin infections
5 - 20 %
Head louses
5 - 30 %

Micronutrients
Micronutrient deficiency
Iron
Anaemia, tiredness, decreased immune function, impaired learning.
Vitamin A
Eye problem, the mucous membranes decreases with leads to a higher risk for infection.
Zinc
Skin disorders, depressed immune function, impaired immune function.
 
 
 
 
 
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