One may wonder as to why protein malnutrition is so prevalent here, the answer lies in the lack of knowledge. The hostel warden, a knowledgeable man himself, didn't really know the importance of getting enough protein in the children's diet. This lack of knowledge regarding proper nutrition (and the consequences of a lack of nutrition) is very common in rural India. Further compounding the lack of knowledge is the vegetarian diet prevalent throughout a substantial portion of India.
Now, moving on from serious protein malnutrition...
Another affliction found to be present was scabies, a contagious skin infection that is persistent in the hostel. Scabies mites, which cause the skin infection, thrive in humid environment. At the time of camp, five to six kids had it, and it was not an uncommon issue. The children stigmatized their fellows who were infected with scabies. Thus, any afflicted kid would try as long as possible to conceal evidence of the infection, having the unfortunate side-effect of increasing the chance of transmitting scabies to other children.There's good news though: treatment is available and given whenever children are found to have scabies.
But not all medical issues are capable of being addressed in the hostel. One such issue is anemia. Anemia can seriously impede children (and their study habits), and oftentimes the iron intake among rural children is not sufficient. In our health camp, we did come across anemic children To combat childhood anemia, the Indian government issues free iron supplements for children in the 5th to 10tt grades. However, beyond that, iron supplements must be paid for, which is not an option at this hostel. Teenagers in 11th and 12th grade do not qualify for free, government-provided iron supplements; however, none of them are able to afford the medication. so for the time being, they must try and supplement their iron intake by some other means.
However, there was one anomaly: one child, an 8th grader is eligible for three more years of free, government-provided iron supplements. Yet for some reason, he was not taking them. This was surprising news to us. Upon asking him why, we found out that he simply didn't know why to take the pills. This was also a bit of a shock, for two reasons: one, we figured that the children were being provided at least basic information as to why to take the pills, and two, we figured that the kids wouldn't really care about the reason and just take the pills anyways.
Turns out that rural children want to know what's going on. On the plus side, once we told him how anemia and the iron supplement pills worked, he had no qualms with taking them-he just had no reason to earlier because he had no knowledge.
You might be seeing this recurring theme of a lack of knowledge seriously affecting the well-being and potential of these rural kids. But that's no reason to lose hope! In fact, there's a very simple yet stupendously effective way to remedy one big issue-protein malnutrition-that will be discussed in the next blog post! Stay tuned to see what we're proposing!