Groundwork for an Immune India

Have a look at the two stats below first.

‘As per a report by UNICEF about 9 million children under five years die every year due to easily preventable and treatable diseases like Diarrhoea and Pneumonia.’

‘As per another report by UNICEF, about 1.83 million children die annually in India before even reaching their fifth birthdays.’

It’s clear isn’t it that we are failing at the very rudimentary level? Preventable and easily treatable diseases are actually hampering a good quality life in terms of health and that too in children. If we want a stronger, healthier and more immune India we need to ensure that these stats fall dramatically in the imminent future. A country which cannot ensure a healthy life to its infant and child population is a far cry from realizing the dream of ‘stronger, healthier and more immune India’!

We have of course grown from strength to strength form the 1950s but still there is a lot of work to be done. As they say we truly have miles to go before we sleep, in this case we have miles to go before we call ourselves a healthy nation!

Children being the future of this nation, in fact of the world, it is imperative that we build their immunity to give them a chance at life. But how do we do that?

The first thing that comes to my mind is ensuring supply of pure drinking water. Did you know that every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-borne disease in the world, more so in developing countries? I didn’t know either till I did some reading on this topic. It’s scary to even imagine that this happens in our country as well. With the curse of poverty and poor water supply spread across the nation, right from north to south and east to west, this is one of the key problems to be dealt with. It must be acknowledged that something as elementary as safe drinking water can actually go a long way in preventing water borne diseases. I have also read that about 3 million people die every year due to water borne diseases which includes 1.2 million children. Now that’s a staggering number, isn’t it? Diarrhoea, which is one of the key causes of deaths in children under 5 years of age, is also spread through contaminated drinking water. With water availability and scarcity being a long standing problem in this country ensuring pure and safe drinking water should definitely be taken on priority.

The next on the list should be proper sanitation. It might not seem important but trust me it is. The lack of proper sanitation facilities can lead to diseases. It is especially the children who are vulnerable. Children growing up in informal settlements like slums are especially at risk. And I don’t need to tell you how many informal settlements India has. And not only that there are several villages which are devoid of proper sanitation facilities, this I know from having watched a documentary some time back. So if we want a healthy and strong nation, we need to provide access to proper sanitation facilities because poor sanitation causes diseases.

Proper nutrition comes next. Adequate nourishment is pivotal to development and growth of children. There are still millions of people in the country who find it hard to even get their hands on proper food. They eat for survival and most of the times what they eat is hardly enough to build their immune system. It is especially true for children keeping in mind their nutritional needs while growing.

Building the immune system makes Vaccination the next item in the ‘to-do’ list.  Prevention of diseases as we know is the key to health. We need to ensure that not a single child is devoid of vaccination. Thus it becomes imperative that we immunize infants and children so that they develop immunity without having to actually suffer from the disease. Prevention before treatment should be our motto to build a stronger population.

All the above that I have listed can also be ensured only when the quality of life is improved. In our country still a large section of the population find it hard to make their ends meet. So unless the economic and social standard of living is improved, building a healthier nation would remain an unrealistic goal which is virtuous to talk about but hard to realize.

Also, schools and colleges should ensure that health is give due importance. From a first aid facility, to a doctor or nurse being always available on call in the campus to periodic health checkups including eye and dental checkup camps being run; the school and college authorities need to ensure them all. And ofcourse immunization drives can also be taken up by schools. What better place to learn the importance of health than where children spend most of their time in?

That Health is wealth is a known fact. And I reiterate again that the children of today will grow up to be the future of this country. Then what is it that we are waiting for? A clarion call, well that’s never really going to be rung. So it's high time we take this seriously. I remember having read in school that health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being. It is just not the lack of diseases. So if we are to build a nation on these principles there’s a lot of work to be done!

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