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Updated: August 22, 2013 20:30 IST

For our children

SRAVASTI DATTA
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Inadequate and irresponsible health care is the main cause, says Pavitra. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu Inadequate and irresponsible health care is the main cause, says Pavitra. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Documentary filmmaker Pavitra Chalam is crowd-funding her film Rooting for Roona not just to raise funds but also to spread awareness about children’s healthcare

The Rooting for Roona campaign, a crowd-funding project, by documentary filmmaker Pavitra Chalam, is for a film to raise awareness about child healthcare. Pavitra is known to work with socially relevant issues. Her team at CurlyStreet Media, a production house founded by Pavitra, is working on their new film, Rooting For Roona. The film is based on the true story of 18-month-old Roona and her family.

Born to a poor family in Tripura, Roona was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a life-threatening neurological disorder. Her parents Abdul and Fatema gave up hope when doctors said nothing could be done for Roona. But the media’s timely highlighting of her story, got Roona much-needed care due to the intervention of an NGO, a private hospital and the royal family of Tripura, with whom Pavitra and her team got in touch with. After reading about Roona, Pavitra and her team set forth to document her story and to understand her condition. “We stayed by her parents’ side from day one through every major surgery and every procedure including Roona’s most critical surgery – the insertion of the shunt. With them we slowly began to understand the nuances of what it would take to bring Roona back to the way she should be. Together we envisioned her playing and laughing. A normal childhood. This is why our logo is a little girl with a balloon. We imagine Roona will be that girl one day.” writes Pavitra in an e-mail interview.

On further investigation, though, they realised that Roona’s condition was due largely to an inadequate and irresponsible health care system. “Her parents took her to what is considered the best hospital in Agartala, the capital of Tripura, and were clearly told that there was nothing that could be done for her. There is adequate evidence-based medical literature on the treatment of hydrocephalus and the advantages of early intervention. After being brought to Fortis, Roona’s head has reduced in size from 97 cm to 58 cm over a three-month period and she has begun to regain her faculties. If similar treatment had been initiated in the early days of her condition, she would have in all probability been leading the life of a normal girl. This clearly points to the inadequacies of the Indian healthcare system in dealing with children like Roona.” The reasons for the neglect of child healthcare are varied, says Pavitra. “It ranges from poor early identification of the disease, to inadequate expertise and infrastructure at the district or state level. The North-East also has a paucity of good hospitals. Besides, given that India’s basic health indicators such as infant and maternal mortality trail even countries like Bangladesh, not much focus or funding is being provided to treatable conditions such as hydrocephalus.”

Rooting for Roona, Pavitra says, will focus on children with congenital conditions who have not been able to receive proper care. “Hydrocephalus is one of many congenital anomalies. In the wake of Roona’s story coming to light we got in touch with a local daily called Tripura India who have been sharing information with us on the other cases which we hope to capture as well.”

Through the Rooting for Roona campaign, Pavitra hopes to engage people in the cause of child health care. “I also believe that involving so many people in this film will be the best way to get the word out, shape public opinion and influence legislation. Our friends and our loved ones were very clear that they would stand by us. This is exactly why we took this leap of faith.”

Pavitra intends the film to be a call for action. “We will focus on taking this to people who frame policy, independent change agents, NGOs and anyone who cares. We will also be submitting the film to film festivals and television channels. We want this to be a film owned by the public and reach the far corners of the country and the world.”

The team needs 42,000 US dollars, they have raised 30,000 dollars so far, and need 12,000 dollars more. If you would like to contribute to the campaign mail info@curleystreet.com. If you would like to send a cheque, write out a cheque in the name of CurleyStreet Media and post or courier the cheque to CurleyStreet Media Pvt. Ltd., G2, Regal Manor, 2/1, Bride Street, Langford Town, Bangalore – 560025. For details call 9739189460. You can follow the campaign on the Rooting For Roona Facebook page or this website: www.rootingforroona.org.

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