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Life Is At Constant Risk At This Periphery Of India’s Dream City

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The boys in the photograph are playing in the garbage dumping ground. Toxic smoke rises from all around, but these kids have no care in the world. No wonder, they might not live beyond 40.

The dumping ground is in Deonar and is India’s oldest and largest dumping ground. Few of us might think that these children are crazy or their parents are careless to let them hover around such a hazardous place. But what if I tell you that this is the area where they also live?

Adjacent to this towering garbage dump live thousands in makeshift shanties. With a life expectancy rate at 39 years, Shivaji Nagar, Govandi in the M/E ward of Mumbai Municipal Corporation, ranks the lowest in Mumbai (Mumbai Human Development Report, 2009).

Don’t wonder if you have not heard about this place. Dharavi is quite well known, but these slum clusters around Deonar are not. It got my attention and of many others, when tonnes of waste at the ground emitting methane caught fire and made the headlines. Continue reading to know how GiveIndia’s partner NGO, Apnalaya is striving to remedy the situation.

Usual Day At Deonar

Numerous garbage trucks line up daily to dump Mumbai’s waste at this ground. Spread over 134-hectares, the ground receives 9,000 metric tonnes of waste every day. According to The Wire’s estimation, it is big enough to accommodate 268 football fields or 30% of the Bandra-Kurla Complex business district.

Not only India’s but one of Asia’s largest dumping grounds, Deonar is now known for its overflowing sewers, pungent air and smoke rising all around.

Life Beside Deonar

The fire which started in Jan 2016 as seen from space (Source: NASA)

The slums around the dumping ground, is one of the cheapest living options in Mumbai. Largely populated with migrants, the slum offers 6X6 room at ₹500–1000. Most of its inhabitants are rag pickers. They ignore several health risks to earn ₹100 a day by selling plastic, metal or glass items.

Life is at constant risk at this periphery of India’s dream city. Without basic facilities like toilets and sanitation system, health in Indian slums is a constant battle. Prone to toxic flooding during monsoons and unhealthy air all year long, slum clusters around Deonar have remained untouched by basic civic amenities. It lacks proper drainage, pipelines to distribute potable water, public health facilities, government secondary schools and access to decent housing.

With no other place to play, children often make use of this garbage dump as their playground. This exposes them to various health risks and make them more vulnerable to disease than other children their age. HT reported that 44% of children are underweight, 57% have stunted growth, 29% are out of school and 88% of pregnant women are anemic.

Someone Is Trying To Help

As a reactive precautionary measure, Apnalaya, a Mumbai-based NGO is providing basic facilities in the area to improve health in this Indian slum. With government’s failure to reach these slum clusters, maternal and reproductive health care services have been inadequate and ineffective.

Apnalaya works towards improving maternal health care through its healthcare clinics. The AnteNatal Care and Gynaecology clinic run by Apnalaya opens twice a week (on Tuesdays and Fridays) in Padma Nagar, a slum settlement on the edge of Deonar dumping ground in Shivaji Nagar. Apnalaya provides medicines and advice from a consultant Gynecologist.

One of the regular visitors at the clinic was Soleha Ansari. Mother of three, Soleha lives with her family in a rented house in Padma Nagar. Her husband is the only breadwinner, who works in a garment factory.

When Soleha was pregnant with her third child, she started coming to Apnalaya’s clinic for doctor’s advice. According to her, going to a private hospital used to cost her much more than what she spent at the Apnalaya clinic. The consultation fee and the prescribed medicines used to imbalance her household budget. At Apnalaya clinic, she is able to take care of her three children health related expense in half of the money she used to spend earlier on her one child. At the advice of Apnalaya’s doctor, she also decided to go for birth control after her third baby.

Apnalaya is providing healthcare to these women who otherwise have no access to healthcare.

Featured image via Getty
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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