Twelve children have lost their lives since April this year at a slum in Govandi because of lack of sanitation facilities. These children were between the age groups of 0-6 years, according to a report by a non-profit Apnalaya.
While the Swachh Bharat campaign is raging across the country, for residents of Rafi Nagar, even clean air is a far-away dream.
Surrounded by dirt and filth, thousands live here without basic amenities such as water, food, electricity and proper shelter. “We have no water supply and hence, have to buy water from tankers every day, paying Rs50 for it. Half of my earnings are spent on buying water,” said Sheela Sunil Kumar, a daily wage worker.
The NGO’s survey suggests the growth of the children in the area is slower compared with the rest of the city. Only 68% children here reach the required child growth rate, specified by the health department of the Centre.
Infant mortality in the region is 60.80 for a 1,000 live births, which is almost double compared with the rest of Mumbai. The life expectancy in the region is a mere 39 years.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of building more public toilets across the country, the slum has only one toilet to cater to 4,000 residents. The residents either walk miles to use the toilet, or defecate in the open.
“We received the maximum number of cases of diarrhoea and malnutrition from this area,” said Ninad Salunkhe, health officer, Apanalaya.
A recent Unicef report had revealed maximum children in India die because of diarrhoea and malnutrition.
“Open defecation is responsible for diarrhoea. Frequently contracting the disease dehydrates the body, which can lead to death,” said Dr Anitha Balachander, head- R&D, Jammi Pharmaceuticals.
Air pollution is another major cause for worry here. Around 2.5 million people are affected by the pollution from the dumping ground, at the base of which the slum is situated.