ASIA/INDIA - Promotion of health care in rural villages, not "proselytism"

Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Gumla (Agenzia Fides) – The Daughters of Sant'Anna, Catholic Sisters present in the Indian state of Jharkhand, are at the forefront of health care assistance for those people who do not have it, especially in rural areas. But often their work, such as that of other Christian congregations or associations involved in social affairs and in assisting the poor and marginalized, is however defined by radical Hindu groups as, "proselytism through social work". The religious women continue their mission, though after the recent approval of the new "Law on Religious Freedom" in Jharkhand, which in fact restricts religious conversions, allegations against Christians have become easier and unjustified episodes of violence are increasing.
The population of the province of Gumla, in the state of Jharkhand, where the Daughters of Sant'Anna operate, has more than 5 million inhabitants, most of tribal origin. There is lack of adequate medical facilities and there is no information on the causes of the most common illnesses, which are often considered "a divine punishment". The cost of medical treatments is very high. "To address this situation, we have developed a training project for midwives and healthcare workers and health education for maternity and early childhood", says Sister Sushmita Kujur of Daughters of Sant'Anna, project leader, in a note sent to Fides. "The project - continues the nun - regards three districts, Simdega, Garwa and Latehar, about eighty miles on both sides of Gumla. For each one we have identified some medical centers where we have chosen a contact person for the maternity area who, supported by the project manager, will coordinate and supervise the health program regarding a total of 75 villages, some accessible only through dirt roads. Villages will choose their 'health promoters', a man and a woman, who will receive a formation in the hygiene and health of the mother and child, nutrition and knowledge of common diseases. We will also form two midwives per village and will promote seminars and meetings to raise awareness of mother and child’s health", concludes Sister Sushmita.
The aim of the project is to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate, improve the health status of women and children, provide home care for pregnant women and newborns, birth assistance, reduce the number of children born under weight, promote natural medicine for common seasonal diseases as well as reducing the number of deaths due to easily treatable diseases.
The experience of the Daughters of St. Anna is an example of the tireless social commitment of Christians in the state of Jharkhand, where the baptized represent 4.3% of the total population. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 27/9/2017)