Too poor to recuperate

Those who are poor and sick are threatened with falling deeper into poverty, like Indian goatherd Kashiram. Although his feet are deformed by leprosy, he runs across the meadows from morning to night to prevent his goats escaping. In the same country, a growing middle class is enjoying rapid economic growth – FAIRMED is working to cushion the impacts of this growing inequality.

In rural India many people are living below the poverty line.

The village of Charanpudi in the Indian State of Maharasthra is extremely remote, accessible only by a narrow unsurfaced road. The people here are poor and only just able to keep their heads above water through agriculture or breeding livestock. One such example is 55-year-old Kashiram Lasha Pawar whose only possessions are two goats. So that he and his wife can survive, he guards his neighbours’ goats day in and day out. «The ulcers on your feet will not heal properly if you run so far every day, » chides the ASHA* Bharatibai. «This strain is preventing the wound from closing. You must take proper care of them every day. »

Early detection prevents disfigurement
Kashiram’s feet are crippled by leprosy. He has open wounds and is going through the six-month antibiotics treatment. But Kashiram is unable to rest his feet in order to recuperate: «My wife and I would starve. But I'm happy that FAIRMED has recognised my disease and supported me during the treatment. » During the conversation, the ASHA Bharatibai discovered a number of tell-tale white skin spots on the back of Kashiram’s wife, Shewenti. «It could be that you have also become infected with leprosy. We will show it to the doctor. If it is leprosy, we will have to treat the disease immediately. Do not fear that you will become disfigured. This would only happen if the disease was already well advanced. You’ve been lucky! »

Indian civil society shoulders the responsibility
As demonstrated by the example of Kashiram and Shewenti, many people in India are living in extreme poverty and have only limited access to medical assistance. According to the World Bank, 25 percent of people in rural India are living below the poverty line. At the same time, India's middle class is growing faster than in most of the world’s countries. «In India, wealth and poverty exist side by side, » explains René Stäheli. «After a challenging day in Hyderabad, we enjoyed a cool beer in a hotel. The contrast of these surroundings with the extreme poverty so close by was the catalyst for us to try to promote solidarity among the better-off Indians for the poor of their country, and to collect funding for specific projects. » As Stäheli emphasises, these efforts did not meet with immediate success: «We had to better understand cultural differences in order to encourage giving, and we had to try out many different approaches. » In the meantime, the fundraising efforts in India are well on track. «Around half of the FAIRMED projects in India are now financed by funds donated from within India, » says Stäheli. «Our medium-term goal is for the Indian programme to work with Indian money and Indian expertise. »

*ASHAs (accredited social health activists) are voluntary community workers. They are paid by the Indian Ministry of Health for each leprosy patient who is identified and looked after.
Find out more at https://www.fairmed.ch/en/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-asha