National Geographic's Necessary Angels

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Apr 17, 2009 / 0 comments

National Geographic Necessary Angels


 Necessary Angels

"They are not doctors. They are not nurses. They are illiterate women from
India's Untouchable castes. Yet as trained village health workers, they are
delivering babies, curing disease, and saving lives—including their own."



We have long championed social justice and human rights here at Wandering
Educators - and in our own personal lives. There is something so incredibly
wrong about treating humans as less than human. We have two Editors here on our site  that promote organizations in India that help untouchables,
lower-caste Indians, or orphans - the Merasi School and Vatsalya



A recent National Geographic article on Untouchables in India is so
powerful that I asked National Geographic if we could share it with our
readers. The answer? Yes. Read on...



Author Tina Rosenberg and Photographer Lynn Johnson have created a powerful story that touches on educating Untouchables as health care workers.


One such health worker, Sarubai Salve, "has been doing rounds in Jawalke since 1984. By her own count, she has delivered 551 babies and says she's never lost a single infant or mother. "When I started, the children all had scabies and there was filth everywhere," she says. Small kids used to die. Pregnant women died during and after delivery. Poor sanitation led to malaria and diarrheal diseases. Children went unvaccinated. Leprosy and tuberculosis were common."



Such changes are widespread in communities where this health care training has taken place - and instituted throughout the years. "By contrast, Jamkhed's successes are dramatic. Thirty-eight years after its founding, the program has trained health workers in 300 villages. Among those that have been in the program for more than a few years, the traditional scourges—childhood diarrhea, pneumonia, neonatal deaths, malaria, leprosy, maternal tetanus, tuberculosis—have virtually vanished. Jamkhed villages have far higher rates of vaccination and an infant mortality rate of 22 per 1,000 births, less than half the average for rural Maharashtra. Almost half of all Indian children under age three are malnourished, while in Jamkhed villages there are not enough cases to register. In rural Maharashtra, 56 percent of births are attended by a health worker, compared with 99 percent in Jamkhed villages."



How can programs like Jamkhed, Merasi School, and Vatsalya give untouchables a chance at a normal life? By education, and constant reinforcement of the belief in themselves.



"When I started, I had no support from anyone, no education, no money," said Sathe. "I was like a stone with no soul. When I came here they gave me shape, life. I learned courage and boldness. I became a human being."



To read the complete story, please head to National Geographic and see:





Thanks to National Geographic for allowing us to share this story with our readers. Courtesy and Copyright of National Geographic. All rights reserved.