Anaemia rampant in women in Bageshwar

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A health camp conducted in Sama, 60 km north of Bageshwar in Uttaranchal in November, revealed that anaemia, chronic infections, gout, tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis are the common ailments there. And, 80 per cent of the 250 people who had come for the check up, suffered from these.

Most women, due to anaemia, had a blood pressure of 90/60, a level serious enough for a patient to be hospitalised. Besides, anaemia can lead to infant and maternal mortality, chronic low back pain and hypotension. Men of the area were by-and-large found to be healthy, except for a high incidence of gout.

When we started our work in the Bageshwar district, we tried giving a middle-aged woman some dietary advice. She was asked to have milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and salads. With an incredulous look she said, "Vegetables? They are not available. There are no fruits on trees, nor does the buffalo give milk now.'

The suggestion of buying any of the above obviously appears ridiculous. But the problems don't end here. Endemic unemployment, lack of sanitation, alcoholism, high level of violence have crippled villages in the district with the health of the women being a major worry.
Once-upon-a-time Bageshwar Down south of Bageshwar, Mukteshwar in the lake district of Nainital, faced a similar situation in 1989. Mukteshwar's physical state was dismal but a series of measures have ensured that the problems are taken care of. Anaemia was a huge health problem then.

After an intensive study, we figured out that worm infections were endemic in the area due to open-air defecation. The solution was to build toilets and get people to use them. Four thousand toilets were made thereafter but it hasn't solved the problem completely.

What surprised us was that while men enjoyed good health, the women continued to suffer. So clearly, there were larger issues