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Monday, 23 September 2013

Healers to the rescue

The Hindu Voluntary caregivers: At a medical camp. Nearly 100 doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other para-medical workers mobilised by the Medical Service Centre (MSC) have been going regularly to Uttarakhand’s disaster-affected villages in Rudraprayag district to provide badly-needed treatment, medicines and medical check-ups.

MSC is a national organisation for mobilising medical personnel for various social causes, including disaster-relief. These medical personnel selected areas which were isolated and were being neglected. They set up two base camps where people from many villages could come for treatment. In addition, mobile teams were also sent to remote villages.

Medical personnel, including senior doctors from Delhi, Kerala, Punjab, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and Gujarat, joined this effort. At the core of this initiative is Virendra Dahiya, a lab technician from Kalawati Hospital. Though still recovering from cancer and hernia, Mr. Dahiya, who was earlier involved in anti-liquor movements in Haryana’s villages, forgot his own ailments and devoted himself to organising MSC’s relief effort as its Delhi co-ordinator.

Three months later, he says, “Believe it or not, but my body has been healing faster after I threw myself whole-heartedly into this effort. I have been able to visit Uttarakhand thrice during this period for coordination.”

Veena Chabra, a nurse from Delhi, says that she had prepared herself for the worst after watching the TV coverage of the Uttarakhand disaster. “I was even prepared to sleep on the roadside, but actually the villagers took very good care of us.”

She says, “We had to trek long miles to reach the more remote villages, carrying our medical boxes. In fact, treatment continued even at the time of our return journey! A group of village women waved at us to stop and asked if there was a lady medic. I was the only one and a curtain was somehow improvised in the bushes.”

How useful was this effort to the villages? Dr. S.P. Sati, a senior geologist from Garhwal University who helped various teams to reach remote villages, says that as this area had been badly neglected the very sight of medical teams and vans ignited a spark of hope among the affected people.

Dr. Sati says that leave alone disaster times, even in normal times the rural health system has declined to such an extent that people have hardly any faith in it. In this situation when they found doctors, nurses and technicians right inside their villages to provide the necessary care and also interacting nicely with them, they were very happy.

Dr. Prakash Chamoli, another Garhwal University teacher who helped in this effort, says, “People in disaster-affected villages need proper houses and they need livelihood. In addition, this type of medical help is a big help as they have important unmet medical needs even in normal times.”

An important supportive role was played by volunteers who collected donations in cash and medicines. Dr. Vigyan Kumar Behra, who played an important co-ordinating role, says that efforts are being made to keep sending medical teams almost every month for about a year. Mr. Dahiya adds, “It'll be helpful if more doctors can join this effort.”

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