This year has seen a change within Health for All.
While the work in India and Ethiopia has continued, and grown, the Ethiopia link with the people of Tigray has now moved to a new organisation, Healthcare Ethiopia Partnership.
This has been set up primarily by the midwives who have worked with Health for All since the first idea of developing a link with Ethiopia. It is a move Health for All fully supports and will allow the Ethiopia partnership to grow and develop with its own identity.
It means that Health for All will continue to focus on the partnership between the surgeries at Bridge and Littlebourne and the health team in Bihar India. This link is now over ten years old and reflects the long term commitment to support sustainable development in partner organisations overseas.
Our Patron, Archbishop Rowan Williams, retired this year, as I’m sure you will know. We would like to express our deepest and most sincere thanks to Archbishop Rowan for all the support he has given us over recent years. We wish him well in his retirement.
In February Dr Peter Sykes travelled to Bihar and the Annual Report contains his story of this trip. He was able to see at first hand the excellent work that is carried out by the health team.
As always, none of this can be achieved without the help of people such as yourself. For this, we and friends in India, are truly grateful. This is especially the case in the current economic climate when raising funds has become so much harder.
We hope you will enjoy this year’s report that includes not only Dr Sykes’ trip but news from the health team working in Bihar.
For all of your support, thank you.
Dr Mark Jones
In January this year I travelled to Bihar, my third trip since 2002. At that time I had the honour of opening the Health Centre in Kanjiar, which had been funded by donations from the patients and friends of Bridge and Littlebourne Surgeries - Health for All.
I was taken to Dadpur, a Dalit village where once there had been visible evidence of child malnutrition. The term Dalit historically describes the communities of India’s lowest caste - “the untouchables”. A feeding programme, funded by the Forest of Blean Rotary Club, provided a nutritious meal of rice, dhal and soya to the children and mothers on just one day of the week. In the early years the food was prepared at Kanjiar village and transported by cycle rickshaw over deeply rutted dirt tracks. This proved to be a daunting and sometimes impossible task when the monsoon turned the track into a quagmire. Health for All subsequently raised funds for a 4WD vehicle, maintaining the food supply at these times.
In 2002 it was an emotional occasion being present at one of the first meals, watching the children racing home after the end of morning school, collecting metal plates and tucking into their one decent meal of the week. Weight measurements by the health team demonstrated a steady improvement in the children’s nutritional status.
Eleven years on, leadership and trust, developed with members of the community, ensure rice, dhal and soya can be stored in the village, allowing the meal to be cooked on site.
A women’s self help group (SHG) was being held in the village that afternoon. Individuals, or small groups of 2 or 3 women, make small monthly savings (20 - 40 rupees, equivalent to 28 - 56 pence), and once they become established savers, have the opportunity to take a loan from the “co-operative” to kick start a project or small cottage industry (making candles and incense sticks, investing in a sewing machine, buying a pig or cow, or even setting up a small stall in the village).These SHGs empower the local woman to greater autonomy and provision for their children.
The third day of the trip saw a return to Kanjiar where the health centre is based.
A sizeable crowd of people had gathered from Kanjiar and neighbouring villages. I could not help but feel a sense of amusement as the crowd pressed round each patient as they gave their stories to the doctor, and watched in fascination as they were examined - a far cry from the training I had received on patient confidentiality!
The final day of my trip was spent back at the team offices in Bodh Gaya. The staff were keen to express some of their wishes for the forthcoming year - further funding for the SHGs, training for the nursing staff (cases of Japanese Encephalitis were being seen in the district for the first time), surgical instruments and rising costs were all on the agenda.
I was able to witness at first hand how the partnership arrangement between the doctors, nurses and staff at Bridge and Littlebourne surgeries and the health team in Bihar helps local people, in one of the poorest areas of the world, take control of their own development and improve conditions in their own community.
Dr Peter Sykes
Let me introduce our Health Team to you.
My name is Neelam and I am the senior nurse for the health project and I have great help from my colleagues Mrs Bina Pandit (Nurse) and Mr Surrender Kumar (Assistant). We work in 11 villages which have a total population of about 8,000.
So what do we do?
The area in which we work here in Bihar is one the poorest areas in all of India. Many people especially women, unfortunately cannot read or write and the government health services are very few and limited, but we do work with them when we can to make things better for the health of the people, especially children.
We provide nurses and doctors clinics to help the poor and we have treated over 2,100 patients in the last year, mostly children, and young mothers especially.
Due to our work not a single infant mortality has taken place during the last year. Children no longer die from preventable diseases in our project area, unlike other places in the state where many children die from easily treatable illness like diarrhoea.
We work in all weathers, up to 50C in the summer, close to freezing in January, and we do so gladly, and with joy, knowing we are really making a huge difference in people’s lives.
With heartfelt appreciation and warm best wishes,
Neelam and the Health Team.