Community-Based Organisations Raise Awareness on Healthcare

Community-Based Organisations Raise Awareness on Healthcare

Kajal Kumari lives with her husband, Aakash and her in-laws in Jakkanpur in Patna in Bihar. Aakash is a daily wage labourer and did not have a regular source of income; the financial burden increased when Kajal became pregnant. Not only was she anemic, she also developed complications. She started consulting a private doctor because she and her mother in law believed that the government hospital at Gardhanibagh, close to Jakkanpur wasn’t well equipped either in facility or faculty.  But the private consultations were expensive and she started missing what should have been regular checkups. Kajal would have gone through her entire pregnancy without checkups, had Oxfam India and the community based organisation (CBO) not worked in Jakkanpur to raise awareness about the improved public healthcare facilities in the vicinity. 

When members of the CBO met Kajal and realized that she was missing her regular checkups, they informed Oxfam India. The latter met with Kajal and tried to convince her for a visit to a nearby public hospital for a proper checkup and free anemia medicines. It then became clear to Oxfam India and the CBO that Kajal’s mother-in-law was reluctant because of lack of proper facilities and qualified doctors in most public hospitals.

But Jakkanpur had improved over the years. Rigorous work within the communities and mobilizing them to advocate for improved healthcare facilities in public hospitals have begun to show results. These community based organisations were formed into district-level federations for this advocacy. It is because of this advocacy that the Gardhanibagh hospital now has improved facilities, well trained staff and provides free anemia medicines. The CBO members shared their experiences with Kajal and her family to convince them to go to the government hospital and receive proper care. Eventually, Kajal agreed and visited the hospital. She received adequate treatment and regularly visited the hospital for checkups. She delivered a healthy baby at the same hospital.

Oxfam India, along with grassroots organisations works to raise awareness about health rights and entitlements in our focused states. Oxfam India supports communities to form Community Based Organisations, women’s groups and adolescent groups, and trains them on health rights and entitlements. Two hundred women and adolescent girls were made aware of their health rights in 2018-19 who in turn now educate their communities. This also led to improved health and nutrition services in our intervention areas.

Children from marginalised communities in Bihar suffer the most. They were not getting adequate services from the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) that provides food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers. Once aware of their rights and various health schemes parents started demanding those services from their local authority. Eventually children started receiving health services under the ICDS as a result of which health and hygiene of children in the community has substantially improved.

Oxfam India also advocates to the government for improved public health services so that even the most economically weak person can have access to healthcare. Along with other civil society members and on ground partners, Oxfam India developed a charter to present to the political representatives ahead of General Election 2019. The charter demands a National Health Bill as Right to Health Care Act to ensure that every citizen shall have the right to comprehensive and quality healthcare at state’s expense, in a government health facility, and in case of its non-availability in a private health facility. 

Public hospitals still lack proper supply of essential drugs, qualified doctors, NICU, and blood banks. Those excluded socially and economically suffer the most and we must continue advocating for adequate public health services.

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