In India, a woman’s lifelong struggle begins at birth

By March 5, 2013

India (MNN) — In India, women fight the tide in nearly every stage of life.

It’s estimated that some 12 million unborn girls have been deliberately aborted over the past thirty years because parents wanted a male child. Reportedly, 3 to 6 million were eliminated in the last decade alone.

We’ll be spotlighting India as International Women’s Day approaches. In Part One of our series, MNN’s Katey Hearth speaks with Dr. Suresh, a medical missionary supported by Gospel for Asia.

An incident in northern India will forever be etched into his memory. He was working at a medical missions camp in rural northern India, where some 400 people were awaiting care. His team had to work by candlelight because the village had no electricity.

“In the dim light we are seeing patients, and this woman walks up to me and says, ‘My child is sick,'” Dr. Suresh recalls. Thinking she was referring to the young child at her side, Dr. Suresh asked the woman to show him what was wrong. The woman unwrapped a bundle she was carrying.

What Dr. Suresh saw next reminded him of the iconic image captured by photographer Kevin Carter in 1993.

“To me, it would die in the next few moments because the respiratory rate was so high and the little baby was [just] skin and bones,” he says.

Though the baby’s family was given money and a ride to the hospital, they refused to go. Dr. Suresh was later told, “They don’t care if this child dies because it’s a girl.

“That will probably stay with me, because that’s the plight of a girl in India.”

Ask God to protect and provide for the little girls He creates. If a little girl is able to make it past birth in India, her situation doesn’t improve much.

“She’s malnourished as a 14-year-old, gets married at 15, and then has a kid at 16,” Dr. Suresh explains. “By 23 she’s a mother of five with severe anemia, and she’s not going to survive much more.”

Since 2007, GFA-supported medical missions teams have visited remote areas near West Bengal every year. Dr. Suresh says they try to target areas lacking access to any medical facilities. Because an overwhelming majority of patients came with preventable diseases, the team was inspired to focus on prevention instead of a cure.

“I would say 70-80% of people come because of simple, preventable things,” says Dr. Suresh. “There’s no point in actually appointing doctors or giving them medicines.

“Unless you actually teach them to wash their hands and boil their water, what’s the point? It’s just the same thing again and again.”

That’s why the team started producing a small series of booklets to educate the community. They began with a booklet focusing on the basic principles of health and hygiene, then added one on first aid and another on pregnancy. The final booklet in the series gives information regarding child care.

“These are all the results of that one starting point,”Dr. Suresh says, referring to a fledgling camp that began their efforts near West Bengal. The community now has toilets, so they don’t have to battle diseases transmitted by open air defecation, and BioSand filters help purify the water.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how GFA helps women in India find hope and new life.

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