Friday, August 14, 2009

"Swine Flu? We face greater problems..."

The swine flu may be spreading across India's slums, but the people there are not too concerned about. They don't worry about the swine flu because most of them are already sick. Many slum dwellers don't boil their water, either because they are unable to or can't afford it, so fevers and flu and worse run rampant.

In this story from India's Jansa Machar newspaper, we read some reaction from those who live in the slums.

"What swine flu? We face greater problems of health and livelihood!" says Anisha, 35, a resident of south Delhi's Rangpuri slum.

"Every third day someone in our neighbourhood is down with high fever. Stomach ailments and diarrhoea are common and so many of us women are anaemic - a flu is the last on our list of worries," Anisha told IANS.

Her friend Majida, 28, who works as a domestic help in three households at the nearby middle class Vasant Kunj neighbourhood, says that health is the least of her worries.

"I have been running a high temperature for a week now. I keep having stomach problems. Still I go for work. I can't afford to lose even a day's income. We have bigger problems," said the mother of three.

Most slum dwellers here are "uneducated", said Anisha, a daily wager who works at construction sites.

"We don't even know what is happening to us. We go to the mobile health vans run by NGOs and local clinics for diagnosis. They prescribe medicine which often has no effect and then we find it tough to follow up -- travelling to hospitals takes up a lot of time and money."

A walk into the cluster of slums, where the small courtyards are plastered with cow dung, considered traditional sanitisers, and drains spew stench just a few metres from the open kitchens, reveal the poor state of hygiene.

Residents in the slums often use water drawn from bore wells for drinking and washing.

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