Samantha Gash is an ultra-marathoner from Australia who is running approximately 3800km across India to raise awareness and funds to support World Vision projects providing access to quality education. Find out more: www.runindia.org.au
Flickering lights illuminate a dark hall way, filled with the echoes of babies wailing as their mothers form an orderly line waiting to see the doctor. Their faces show the despair as they know their babies are staring death in the eyes, but their patience shows they recognise this problem is not unique to them.
It’s a common site at the malnutrition clinic in Alwar, a primitive hospital which services the region. Families travel for hours along incredibly bumpy dirt roads with their children in their arms in the hope they can be saved. It’s incredibly bleak, but I’m told before World Vision provided new facilities and child friendly paintings throughout the rooms it was even more traumatic.
It must be terrifying for these mothers.
I’ve spent the last two years reading countless documents and speaking to experts to learn about the communities I will visit and the people I will meet, but witnessing this is completely different.
I’ve read the statistics that there are more malnourished children in India than parts of Sub-Saharian Africa, a staggering fact, yet nothing can prepare you to witness a mother’s distress as she lays next to her child, many of whom look even too exhausted to cry and express their pain and hunger.
When I planned this project, the community visits were the cornerstone of the project however I also thought it would give the body a chance to recoup from the previous days efforts. However, they have proven to be emotionally draining and constantly remind me of the potential benefit that Run India can create. I consistently want to do more and today's visit remind me how lucky I am to be born in Australia with access to a public health care system.
As we make our way through the facility we hear the story of Choti, a young girl we are due to meet later that day, who came to the clinic weighing just six kilograms. However after 10 days of treatment, Choti, was restored to a manageable level of health and is now living with her family in a nearby community.
She received intravenous fluids as well as a specialised therapeutic diet during her stay. Whilst Choti was being treated, her parents were advised on how to continue providing her adequate nutrition upon returning to their home in the community. Had Choti not received the nutritional treatment, there was a very real chance she would not have survived.