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70K Cases And Counting: Is Delhi’s Healthcare System Failing Its People?

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

On June 12, Samdish Bhatia of ScoopWhoopUnscripted, an online media platform, reported from a famous crematorium in New Delhi. Titled, Inside a crematorium: A New Normal, it paints a painful picture of the rising deaths due to the ongoing coronavirus crises in India. So far, Delhi has become the most affected place in the country.

The report shows that more than 10 corpses are being brought jam-packed in one ambulance. Further, it is seen that no frontline worker has the proper protective gear, let alone masks, face shields, or gloves.

Another report titled Outside a Hospital: A New Normal takes us through the helplessness of the family members of COVID patients. Many of them claim that they have no idea what is happening with their loved ones. Some of them have also complained about the false claims of the availability of beds shown on the Delhi corona app.

These people are running from post to pillar trying to get their family members admitted, arranging a large sum of money, or just wanting to have one glimpse of their near and dear ones battling the deadly virus. Mentally broken and physically tired, many of them break down while sharing their misery.

There are more than 8,000 hospital beds in Delhi for COVID patients, out of which 4,500 beds are in government hospitals and nearly 3,500 beds are in private hospitals.

Delhi continues to be the worst affected city by the global pandemic. It has surpassed the 70,000 infection cases and continues to see a sharp rise in the number of cases daily. It is being said that Delhi will soon overtake Maharashtra to become the worst affected place in India. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has predicted 5.5 lakh COVID cases in the city by the end of July. But the most important question that arises here is, is Delhi prepared?

With the sharp spike in the number of cases and fatalities, numerous messages and videos are circulating on social media which say that patients are dying in Delhi due to lack of beds and ventilators. Some patients are unable to pay the hefty fees and thus are not being treated. Eyebrows have also been raised about testing, treatment, and the credibility of the health system.

Since the onset of the deadly disease, the Chief Minister and the Aam Admi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal has claimed that the Delhi Hospitals are ready to face the worst. However, the rising death rate, the increase in cases, and media reports portray a completely different picture.

As of now, the state government has revised the coronavirus plan and has said that every household will be tested by July 6. The decision comes after a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah earlier this month. The meeting was held post the Supreme Court’s criticism of the Aam Admi Party for the poor handling of dead bodies amid the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court pulled up the state government. Taking note of media reports highlighting the lack of care given to the bodies, a bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. K. Kaul and M. R. Shah said: “The situation in Delhi is horrendous, horrific and pathetic.”

The bench further added, “Very sorry state of affairs in Delhi and inside its hospitals. Look at the treatment meted out to patients. The patients are crying and no one is looking after them. Relatives are not even informed, as reported by media, after the death of patients.”

Justice Shah also said that, “If dead bodies are being treated like this, dead bodies are found in the garbage! The media has highlighted these deplorable conditions. Worse than animals people are being treated.” The apex court also questioned the Arvind Kejriwal-led government over the state’s reduced testing figures.

There are more than 8,000 hospital beds in Delhi for COVID patients, out of which 4,500 beds are in government hospitals and nearly 3,500 beds are in private hospitals. Various messages are being circulated on social media which say that patients are being shooed away and hospitals are charging a huge amount of money for admitting a patient. Lack of oxygen cylinders and ventilators is becoming a huge reason for the rising number of deaths.

People are also alleging that the Delhi government is hiding the actual number of deaths and are under-reporting the figures. As per MCD’s figures, as many as 2,098 corpses of COVID patients have been cremated whereas the official government tally stands at 1,085.

The condition of Delhi has become heart-wrenching in every way. It seems as if the Chief Minister has taken a backseat and has left everything on the Almighty. His tactics are not working and to bring Delhi’s economy back on track, he has unlocked the whole city. No social distancing norms are being followed and no necessary precautions are being taken.

The capital city needs to revamp its strategy as a whole and carry out the necessary lockdown, if needed. One gets goosebumps thinking about how the families are not even able to pay final tributes to their loved ones. Delhi needs to buck up and refrain itself from becoming the Corona capital of India.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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