Roachmanagar in southern Tamil Nadu is a case study for lack of adequate health facilities in southern Tamil Nadu. Even though it is only 2-3 km away from Vembar village, but it does not have a public health centre.
The expansion of primary health sub-centres in rural Tamil Nadu with opening of 336 centres during 2005-2015 was claimed as a big achievement, but it does not seem to have reached Rochemanagar.
The area with its proxy to the sea and frequent rainfall with no proper drainage system to unclog the water breeds mosquitoes causing malaria and dengue.
India ranks 50 in the cases of deaths reported due to malaria unlike many of our neighbouring countries that has done much better. Even Pakistan ranks 52, followed by Bangladesh Afghanistan and Nepal whose GDP growth rate is much lower than India.
“It is very difficult at times when small children get malaria because of their lower immune system. They are in need of more care and better facilities,” Princy Devi, a local resident, said.
With no government programmes to fight malaria, people are coming up with their own initiatives to help raise awareness on various health-related issues. The newly opened health care centre run by the Congregation of Sacred Heart is trying to reach out to the needy in the area.
The sister superior, Sister Jude Silver, who heads the centre said: “Our major focus is on healthcare, education and problems of the elderly for whom we have set up an old age home. The medical facilities provided at the centre are basic and we have got a trained nun to take care of it.”
Sister Tracy, the nun who works at the centre said: “We are accessible all the time and people with any disease such as malaria, typhoid or even a snake bite are treated here.”
According to Sister Jude, most of the diseases found in the area are caused by unhygienic lifestyle of the people. “Very few households in the village have proper toilets and most of the people defecate in the open.”
L. Subhamaliya, a governing local body official, said: “There are lots of health issues in the village. Until and unless the government provides us with adequate infrastructure, there would be no progress.”
“We have bore wells connected to our houses but there is no proper sanitation facilities through which we would be able to use the toilets,” Lakshmi, a 53-year-old woman and a local resident, added.
According to Rameshwari, who works with one of the village self-help groups, set up by the local NGO People Action for Development (PAD), the younger generation is aware of the causes of the health problems.
Prevalence of consanguineous marriages in the area is another problem causing disability among children. “These children go through many psychological problems and are a burden on their families from the day they are born,” Sister Tracy said.
Sister Jude said that they have carried on awareness programmes in such cases and even stopped marriages. “People are slowly getting to know the problems and understanding the solution that we have put forth,” she added.