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India: EveryOne in action

Today has been our first full day visiting our programme work in India. It’s been an inspiring and challenging experience. Although we’re seasoned travellers across Europe and parts of Asia, this is the first time any of us have been to India…so the learning curve has been steep to say the least!

After being greeted by the team in our state office, we took a brief trip to a drop-in centre for street children and then took a longer visit to see our child survival programme in the afternoon.

Since becoming an independent Save the Children in 2008, it has quickly become apparent  that there has been rapid growth in both the scale and impact of our work across the country. Currently working in 10 states, the team has historically had a strategic focus on education and child protection — in response to well documented issues of child labour and child trafficking. But a more recent development has been our work to save babies and children’s lives, which was the focus of this afternoon’s visit to a slum area in the north of the city.

Child mortality figures across India are staggering. Across the world, over 8.1 million children under the age of five die each year from hunger and preventable diseases. 2 million of these children are from India.  Save the Children, with a range of local partner NGOs, is working in challenging conditions to deliver a fantastic programme of mobile health clinics and outreach health sessions across six districts in Delhi, designed to both treat and prevent the most common diseases, like dengue fever and pneumonia, that are a threat to children’s lives in slum areas of the city.

So what does a mobile health clinic in India look like? A Save the Children van was parked up in a dusty street in the centre of the slum. Despite being towards the end of the session when we visited, mothers and children were queuing for services, with big smiles and friendly faces to greet us! The clinic team here see on average 140-150 people a day, providing them with medical advice and treatment. People hear about the service by word of mouth but also through the work a community volunteer – currently 1 per district – who has a crucial role in raising awareness of the service, but also in empowering and mobilising the community to demand greater state provision of primary healthcare, which we’ve learned is a crucial issue in Delhi.

It was great to see firsthand the impact that volunteers have in our programme work and has prompted lots of questions and discussion among our group about the potential role of volunteers in our work in our own UK programme around child poverty. It costs about £35,000 a year in running costs – we’ve heard that the next ambition of the team is to buy 4 further vans to work in the other 4 districts of the city. This might become the focus of all of our fundraising efforts when we get back home…

After being greeted by the team in our state office, we took a brief trip to a drop-in centre for street children and then took a longer visit to our child survival programme. Writing this from our hotel in Delhi, we’re all exhausted, but are really looking forward to the next leg of our journey in Jaipur, where we will be for three days.

Please follow our progress through the blogs of Marilyn Payne, Sue James and Anne Strang. As well as asking lots of questions and documenting the trip for fellow volunteers back home, the group have tried their hands at blogging for the first time – and would be love to answer any questions or comments you have!

Until tomorrow then…

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