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Tête-à-tête with M.A. Wohab, Director, Southern Health Improvement Society

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Mohammed Abdul Wohab, founder director of respected NGO, Southern Health Improvement Society (SHIS) chatted with Youth Ki Awaaz correspondent Abhirup Bhunia. Following is the transcript:

Abhirup Bhunia: For our readers please state what SHIS does?

M.A. Wohab: SHIS acts as the “Friend in need” for over 22 lakhs marginalized and the underserved population, spread over 2,200 villages covering districts of West Bengal from north of Bay of Bengal to foot hills of Himalayas including central Bengal districts.

AB: Please state in detail about each of the fields you work on.

MAW: In health — TB, ICTC, HIV/AIDS, Vector Borne disease control, diagnostic services,  RCH and Institutional Delivery, Motor Boat Dispensary (fully equipped) for the islands of Sundarbans, eye care and operation and emergency health care, gastro-enteritis immunization, herbal plants and medicines, IEC and awareness drive.
In education — Schools for children at all levels for the poor and backwards communities and for girls; schools for the deaf & dumb (pre-primary to IV standard) and for disadvantaged boys and girls. Diploma in Ophthalmic Clinical Assistants Course affiliated to Vidyasagar University apart vocational training courses for educated unemployed. Adult education drive for non conventional education that includes Self Help Groups; running 3760 SHGs for 37,600 members of which 90 per cent are destitute women receiving micro credit for sustainable self help ventures.
In Environment — Sanitary marts (complete in three sectors); Arsenic Mitigation, for which we have collaborated with UNICEF for water test and manufacture of water filter; disaster management. (Examples: Tsunami in A & N Islands and Aila in the Sundarbans). Fire cases and traffic accident also feature in our mitigation files.
We circulate monthly SHIS magazine for dissemination of vital information and interaction with readers / beneficiaries. We also run SHIS Institute of Socio-technical & Educational Research (SISTER) that manages forums for research, innovation, improvisation and analytical approach to problem solutions.

AB: It is found that SHIS works on a range of issues but health is your priority — the name reiterates that. Any reason for the same?

MAW: Health is our first priority. As per Alma Ata declaration health is defined as physical social & mental wellbeing of individuals and community. If ‘total health’ is taken care for all, other urgent issues are taken into account IPSO facto. Health occupies pride of place, though we are fully concerned about other issues. Health is connected with poverty, malnutrition and superstition which is the bane of our socio economic life. Healthy persons will be interested in education and skill training which is a concomitant requirement for increase of productivity.

AB: You seem to be working for both the rural and urban poor…

MAW: 80% of our services are for rural poor, because bulk of our population lives there and are underprivileged. We take care of urban poor in Kolkata and district towns where problems are acute.

AB: What about short term targets as far as health is concerned?

MAW: Short terms target are fixed in following cases:
TB — 50% increase in case identification, diagnosis and detection. 80 per cent increase cure rate and 90 per cent drop of drug resistant cases. This is done through RNTCP and CB Dots program and massive mobilization and advocacy & communication under ACSM program. More Designated Microscope Centre (DMC) have been inducted for sputum test.
Eye — 100 per cent in vision test and 50 per cent increase in cataract operation. This will be done by holding more Eye camps and through active collaboration of Sight Savers International and District Blindness Control Society.
HIV / AIDS —  50% increase in case reporting
Malaria —  50% increase in case detection through intensive blood test drive and 50 % drop in Malaria cases through massive distribution of medically treated mosquito nets.
RCH — At least three ANC including TT, Folic Acid / Iron Tablets for 100 % pregnant women in our areas.
IDC — 80% Institutional Delivery and 100% Referral of Emergency cases.
We are running several RCH clinics and delivery centers in the Sundarban area and gradually expanding services in outreach areas.
Gastro-enteritis — 90% drop in cases. Wide spread counseling for safe drinking water, use of Halozen tablets where required, sinking more tube wells for safe drinking water, availability of ORS packets and counseling for their use.
Sanitary latrine — No blocks in Sunderbans areas be left out without a sanitary latrine for each family. Our Sanitary Mart is making survey of those areas and liaising with PRI functionaries to work out the modalities.
Arsenic test — To identify all sources of water with signs of Arsenic poisoning and closing those sources and liaison with local self Government authorities for sinking of tube wells in Arsenic free zones.
Awareness Drive — To sensitize the total population in our area through sustained intensive interaction by our trained and committed social workers.

AB: Do you have a ‘motto’ per se, for people to identify you as?

MAW: We desire that people should look up to us as their “Friend, Philosopher & Guide”. Our motto is to “Serve the needy to bring forth assured smile in their gloomy faces”.

AB: Your future plans are extensive — has forging alliance with other NGO’s been contemplated? Where do you see your SHIS a decade hence?

MAW: After 30 years services we have achieved the maturity of a centurion and retained the vigor of a 30 years old. We have achieved a lot and our unintended mistakes have made us wiser, enhanced our self confidence and hardened our commitment. From a village level NGO, we have achieved the stature of a national organization along with receiving global recognition. In the next 10 years we plan to consolidate our position in our own state by tightening all loopholes that are there in our present system of operation, implementation process, monitoring techniques, and follow up measures and achievements of targets. The aim is to spread ourselves in all important issues including health, socio economic and cultural for the people of West Bengal with total focus on underprivileged women, children, backward communities and the downtrodden including people in remote and inaccessible areas to enlighten them and help them to shape their destiny in a spirit of vibrant and dynamic cooperation between Govt., NGO, private sector and beneficiaries. We are already acting in unison with locally based reputed NGOs and we have formed NGO Net work with smaller, grass root level NGOs to inform and educate them and delegate task to them to work out the local plans as per the desire of local stake holders.

AB: You have been candid and elaborative. But before I finish, let me ask, do you intend to extend SHIS throughout India perhaps in states where people suffer even more than in villages of West Bengal?

MAW: We are, in fact, seriously contemplating extending our resources and experience to plunge into few selected pockets of Jharkhand, Orrissa and Chattisgarh. We intend to, after regular visit and surveys, open up new useful contacts in those pockets. Of course, ready availability of fund will hasten the process.

AB: Youth Ki Awaaz is obliged to have been met with such kind cooperation.

MAW: Thank you Abhirup, love and greetings.

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