The threat of malnutrition, constant dehydration and communicable disease, as well as of non-communicable diseases is high in the Thar Desert. Frequent droughts bring crop failure and inadequate sanitation to the already difficult lives of villagers. Coupled with a lack of healthcare, education and financial means surrounding health issues it makes those living the Thar particularly susceptible to disease and premature mortality.
Thus, healthcare has been one of GRAVIS’ main concerns as we endeavour to improve the lives of those living in the Thar. Since our first healthcare programme in late 1980s, we have expanded our area of impact to isolated villages and administered healthcare to thousands.
GRAVIS Hospital- As one of very few rural medical facilities in the area, our hospital serves over 200,000. The unit was established in 2000 with the help of various donors and agencies and is now fully equipped and supported with:
- 5 full time doctors
- 5 visiting specialist doctors
- An auxiliary team of nurses, pharmacists, technicians, administrators, and ambulance drivers
- 70 beds
- Exam rooms, a pathology lab, delivery room, sonography and radiology
- 2 operating rooms
- Training complex
Together, this team offers care for a variety of medical procedures and conditions including major and minor surgeries, treatment for diseases like malaria and TB, treatment of malnutrition and anaemia, and supervision of pregnancies. All services are given at a minimal cost or no cost to those who cannot pay. To date 37,088 patients have been treated.
Eye Care- GRAVIS Hospital maintains a fully equipped eye care unit, which includes full surgical and diagnostic equipment as well as a staff of one ophthalmologist and four ophthalmic assistants. To date, the eye care unit has performed over 25,000 eye surgeries. The Community Eye Health (CEH) programme compliments the facility by generating awareness about eye care and eye problems, and linking patients with the eye unit through GRAVIS-trained village eye workers.
Medical Camps- In order to provide vital healthcare to isolated village communities, GRAVIS has established a number of camps throughout the Thar. Staff screen for illnesses, provide basic treatments and refer patients to other facilities if necessary. During the past year 71 camps were organized, reaching out to over 4,500 people. GRAVIS also hosts a number of awareness camps as a means of preventative healthcare. Topics vary from communicable diseases to adolescent health and we work to educate and empower marginalized communities. In addition to that we run special eye screening camps since many suffer from eye diseases like glaucoma, cataract and numerous eye infections caused by overexposure to damaging UV light and an unequal diet. During our eye screening camps we detect and treat those conditions, inform about healthy prevention and if needed transfer patients to our hospital. During the past year GRAVIS organized 10 of these eye-screening-camps and treated 778 patients.
Malaria- This parasite is endemic to the Thar and while the P.vivax parasite is most common and is generally less severe, the P. falciparum parasite has been seen in increasing frequency in the last years and is much more dangerous than the previously mentioned version. Infected mosquitos are able to produce in the standing water used around villages in naadis and taankas. In order to reduce the reproduction of these mosquitos GRAVIS has been installing lids on taankas and other open water containers. We also regularly test and treat for malaria at the GRAVIS Hospital.
Tuberculosis Control Programme- Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne infection most often found in the lungs. While the disease is curable if diagnosed early, many in the Thar Desert are unable to reach treatment due to their isolation and lack of funds. TB is currently the second leading cause of death in the Thar and its prevalence is exacerbated by a lack of hygiene and cramped living conditions.
In order to address this problem, the Government of India has organized the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme (RNTCP). GRAVIS has been named the implementing body of the programme meaning that we are in charge of the on-the-ground work. We organize TB awareness camps on prophylactic measures and treatment methods. Additionally we have put together a team of 20 DOTS workers who are trained by the Government Tuberculosis Control Department to identify potentially infected patients, refer them to the GRAVIS Hospital, and monitor them once they are being treated.
HIV/AIDS- The Thar Desert has seen relatively low rates of HIV/AIDS infections so far. However, as villagers are forced to migrate or seek employment in cities, their potential for exposure increases. In hopes of preventing infection, GRAVIS holds a number of awareness camps with the help of Village Health Workers in order to educate villagers about the disease and its causes.
Occupational Lung Diseases- As drought forces farmers to seek employment outside of agriculture, many go to work in the stone mines. Unfortunately, miners inhale dust containing small silica crystals from drilling and employers often do not provide the necessary safety gear. After extended exposure, many miners develop silicosis as the crystals build up in the lungs. GRAVIS holds awareness camps about the danger of the mines and offers diagnosis and treatment for those living with the disease. Last year we organized 10 of these camps where we treated 577 patients. We also conduct studies on the occurrence of mine caused health issues and help disabled workers to receive compensation from governmental programmes. On silicosis, GRAVIS has led national and global level advocacy.
Crèches- GRAVIS manages 12 crèche units which provide supplementary nutrition, immunization and regular health check-ups to the children of poor, working mothers. The crèche units care for over 300 children under the age of five in ten villages of Osian block in Jodhpur district. Each crèche unit is managed by two local women identified and trained by GRAVIS. The programme is run in assistance with the Central Social Welfare Board of the Government of India.
Maternal Health- We provide advice for mothers and mothers-to-be at all stages of their pregnancy and link them to midwives and appropriate medical institutions.
Geriatric Health- Seeing that the elderly are often the most susceptible to disease and chronic illness GRAVIS provides a number of services to ensure their well-being. We link those patients to affordable, easily accessible and age friendly programmes and provide them with mental health services. Furthermore we promote self care aspects among them and share knowledge concerning nutrition and health at an advanced age. Between 70 and 80 percent of the beneficiaries of GRAVIS' eye care initiatives are over the age 60. It is a part of Help Age International network and contributes to older people's health issues nationally and internationally.
Health Outcomes Tool (HOT)- In late 2015 Gravis was given the chance to initiate HOT, an intervention in India with the aim of collecting health information on the needs of the elderly and informing state and national health policy on these. The study is being realized by the GRAVIS team and qualified volunteers, and will be completed in two stages determining the Health Related Quality of Life of the elderly.