As many as 400 residents of Govandi, 75% of whom are younger than 18, are all set to tackle man-made or natural disasters in the area, as part of the Child Centred Disaster Risk Reduction (CCDRR) programme.
The aim of the initiative, formed under the guidance of NGO Save the Children, is to address health hazards for pregnant women and children, termed the most vulnerable sections of urban slums like Govandi. The project is run in coordination with local civic functionaries and officials from the Integrated Child Development Scheme. “The idea was to address core issues in urban slums, which are ignored owing to their illegal status,” said Sandhya Krishnan, general manager of the programme.
The three-year pilot project started in August 2015. Three different task force groups, comprising children, adults and women, were formed in June. The project now has 10 task force groups with 111 men and 105 women, 10 children’s group with 56 boys and 118 girls, and women’s groups in 10 locations with 13 members. “We created a map of the area to identify the health hazards. We then created a response module for each of the disaster and trained our volunteers accordingly,” said Krishnan.
The task force is working on civic issues such as flooding, open electric wires, open gutters and health hazards such as tuberculosis, malnutrition, vector-borne diseases and mandatory vaccination programmes for young children and pregnant women.
According to a survey conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 50% of the population suffers from lifestyle-oriented illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments, high blood pressure and tuberculosis. Nutrition-related problems plague most children with 45% of them suffering from stunted growth and almost 35% being underweight. The ward also records a high number of abortions compared to the city’s average. The proximity to dumping grounds makes things worse.
“On the other hand, we have different government mechanisms offering resources, and on the other end, ill-informed residents fail to make use of them. Our children and other volunteers work as a bridge between them,” said Krishnan.
The children and other volunteers are trained daily and conduct mock drills on how to respond to seasonal epidemics such as dengue and malaria as well as other disasters such as fires and cylinder explosions. “They know the area well and can identify easy escape routes, safe locations and another teams coordinate with civic disaster management cell close the gap between a disaster and response,” said Krishnan.