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Updated: March 5, 2011 16:53 IST

Helping hand

MADHUMITHA SRINIVASAN
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All for a cause
Special Arrangement
All for a cause

Join hands with The Hindu to help underprivileged children through the Ekam Foundation.

The fight for basic rights starts from the time of birth. Neonatal mortality rate and infant mortality rate in India is many times higher than in developed countries. But most of these deaths are preventable, says Dr. Sailakshmi, Chennai-based paediatrician and neonatologist. “As doctors, we know that a life could have been saved if only there was a certain drug or equipment. Outside they just see the numbers. It's just a matter of lack of basic medical facilities and awareness,” she says. Dr. Sailakshmi put her plan into execution on Doctor's Day in 2007 (July 1) when Ekam was formally inaugurated.

Ekam was formally inaugurated as a Community Paediatric Project of the Confederation of Indian Organisations for Service and Advocacy, a CSR initiative of Mafoi foundation. Two years later, Ekam Foundation spun off as an independent organisation and continues to save lives though currently its operations are limited to Tamil Nadu.

Common problems

The most common neonatal health problems that require immediate attention are birth asphyxia, immature births, low birth weight and infection in the blood. Ekam, through its network with private hospitals and like-minded doctors, ensures that money does not come in the way of treating infants. “We have 150-170 paediatricians in our network. Once we get a referral, we put the infant's parents in touch with the closest hospital or doctor in our network where quality medical help is assured. In Chennai we have partnered with the Child Trust Hospital, among others, where medical facilities are offered at 50 per cent subsidy, along with a credit facility that Ekam bears.”

How do they choose whom to help? Dr. Sailakshmi says, “We cannot have a strict set of criteria. We try to help any parent who cannot afford treatment for their child, but we do have an intensive interview process through which we try to find out how deserving they are. After all, nobody should be denied healthcare due to lack of money.”

Apart from planning and networking, love and trust also play a major role. Why else would a medicine supplier, to whom Ekam owes Rs. 400,000 agree to provide a life-saving drug with just a phone call?

Ekam also partners with the government's ICDS project to conduct screening camps at Anganwadi centres and corporation schools, through which it has distributed over five lakh iron tablets to 50,000 adolescent children. It also appoints nurses in 37 medical college hospitals and District Headquarters Hospitals in the State to monitor the 41 specialised newborn care units. The neonatal mortality rate has seen a significant drop in these districts.

Expansion plans

Currently with a team of 11 trustees, seven staff, networks of NGO and private organisations and volunteers, Ekam is looking at expanding to Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa where they have identified doctors involved with community paediatric centres. But, for the success of any initiative, Dr. Sailakshmi believes that collaborating with the government is important. “We do not want Ekam to exist after two years. We want the communities to adopt the project and run it as their own.”

Also on top of Ekam's to-do list is bridging the gap between government schemes and initiatives and people who need it. Last year, Rs.110 crores of the State's healthcare funds was returned simply because it was unused. This is one major problem that Ekam is looking to address. It is planning to submit recommendations to the government on how and where to spend its budget, laying emphasis on the procurement of essential drugs and quality manpower to administer them.

What is '6 for a Cause'?

Cricket dissolves all divisions and boundaries in India. This cricket season, The Hindu and VGN Developers join forces to bring cheer to underprivileged children through “6 for a Cause”. For every 6 scored by an Indian batsman in the league matches, VGN Developers will donate Rs. 10,000 to our cause partner, Ekam Foundation.

The Hindu urges readers to join this movement and donate liberally. For donations, please send a cheque/draft (along with your address and phone no.) in favour of The Hindu – Ekam to Box No. HB 999, The Hindu, Chennai 600002 or log on to www.thehindu.com/6foracause and make your donation online.

Funds raised will be used for Ekam Foundation's Bala Arogya Suraksha project. More information on Ekam Foundation is available at www.ekamoneness.org.

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