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Rural Health Problems in India

Health is an important component for ensuring better quality of life. Large masses of the Indian poor continue to fight hopeless and constantly losing the battle for survival and health. The war begins even before birth, as malnourishment of the mother reduces life chances of the fetus.

Only the sturdiest survive the subsequent onslaughts of unsafe and unhygienic birth practices, unclean water, poor nutrition, sub-human habitats and degraded and unsanitary environments. With little or no access to health care, the grim battle continues into adulthood, until precarious survival once again spawns a fresh cycle of birth and struggle.

In rural India, where over 50 percent of families are living in poverty, it is not only food security but also ill-health, which causes serious distress. Even after 50 years of Independence, we have an infant mortality of 87 per 1,000 with most babies dying due to diarrhea and other minor diseases related to portable water, hygiene and sanitation.

Presently, over 25 percent of villages do not have assured source of drinking water for at least 4-5 months in a year and about 75 percent of the water sources are polluted and do not meet the World Health Organization Standards.

Less than 10 percent of the rural population uses toilets and such lack of sanitary conditions and shortage of clean drink­ing water are directly affecting the health of most of the rural people. While the world is concerned with emerging diseases like AIDS, rural India is still highly affected by the age-old problems of TB, malaria and diarrhea on the one hand, and facing new chal­lenges posed by environmental pollution mainly due to contamination of air by auto­mobiles and industries, and water by agro-chemicals on the other. In such situations, it is difficult to ensure progress and sustainable living without additional problems related to community health.

Poor health in rural people suppresses their energy and enthusiasm to work hard for earning their livelihood. In the absence of primary healthcare, it is difficult to ini­tiate any development program Inspite of this, because of the sectorial approach, health is not considered as an integral part of the development program.

Most textbooks are in English and since people in rural areas either speaks their native language or Hindi, but not English that defeats the purpose. This results in lack of their interest in studies. Though some of the students from villages are really brilliant, as they have a wealth of practical knowledge and know how to survive even in very harsh conditions of life, difficultly in understanding their textbooks, lack of facilities and their poverty are a hurdle in their education.

There is a need for internalization of health programs by orienting the field worker to emphasize on community health, particularly the supply of drinking water, sanitation, immunization and nutrition. Indeed, in many of the projects, develop­ment of safe drinking water source was considered as an important and effective entry point activity.