Poverty and ill health are synonymous. Living in unhygienic conditions, eating inadequately, inability to afford proper medical care due to prohibitive costs - all lead to poor health and maybe even early deaths. Children International is committed to improving the health and nutrition of men, women and children in the areas where it operates the sponsorship program, both in Delhi and in West Bengal.
Children International measures its success by whether children are well-nourished, are protected from infection and disease, and have access to essential health services. To improve the health status amongst the sponsored population, Children International operates clinics, adequately staffed with doctors, dentists and health assistants to provide curative care to the sponsored population throughout the year. This includes free medical check-ups, diagnosis and initial treatment of the children and youth. Depending on the seriousness of the cases and the nature of treatment, the doctors also refer the sponsored population for treatment to government hospitals/health care centers, specialized institutes etc.
Disadvantaged children are a priority concern for Children International’s lifesaving emergency medical assistance. This emergency medical fund has provided a new lease of life to many who would otherwise have had no other means of obtaining the necessary treatment and succumbed to the disease.
Adolescents in West Bengal, where Children International operates, face a wide variety of challenges related to their reproductive health. One of the most significant challenges stems from the Indian tradition of marrying early, coupled with a lack of accurate and widely available information regarding reproductive health. Youth Health Corps (YHC) is a Children International health education initiative that trains sponsored youth to become peer educators. These impassioned young volunteers share their knowledge about sanitation, hygiene, reproductive health and AIDS with other youth. Under the YHC program peer educators undergo a series of trainings on issues related to pubertal changes, reproductive health, sexuality, reproductive tract diseases and HIV/AIDS, and have been successful in gradually breaking down inhibitions of their peers and others in the community concerning these sensitive issues.
As this program seeks to help young people make a successful transition to adulthood a need was felt to scale up the YHC program and recruit co-facilitators into the program, who would work alongside the YHC Facilitator and the peer educators, to implement this unique program. The co-facilitators were selected from amongst the sponsored youth who had been peer educators in the past and had demonstrated strong leadership, communication, and organizational skills and abilities. The YHC program has also focused on community building activities with health fairs and youth events being organized in the communities. In the community youth event the peer educators conduct quiz competition and extempore talks on youth health issues and health fairs focus on reproductive health issues with the Peer Educators disseminating information to those youth and adult who asked for it. These events are organised in the community with the effort to sensitise the community towards adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues.