SEATTLE — India’s indigenous peoples, the Adivasis, comprised of over 700 recognized tribes and constitute 8.6 percent of the country’s population. While the 1950 Constitution protects the rights of the Adivasis, centuries of exploitation, displacement and neglect still resound in the lives of these primarily rural indigenous people. The living conditions of the Adivasis lag behind those of other demographics, particularly in health care. However, humanitarian organizations dedicate themselves to facilitating Adivasi access to health care infrastructure, with significant results. Below are three organizations dedicated to improving the living conditions of the Adivasis.
3 Organizations That Improve The Living Conditions Of The Adivasis
- The Keystone Foundation
For two millennia the indigenous Todas, Kotas, Irulas and Kurumbas have called the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (“the Reserve”) home. Continual disruption of traditional agricultural and cultural practices of Adivasis diminishes the living conditions of the Adivasis in this region. The Keystone Foundation and the Banyan devised an initiative for improving the living conditions of Adivasis in the Reserve. This holistic program addresses cultural dislocation and psychosocial problems that hinder the effectiveness of allopathic and preventative medicine. The Keystone Foundation’s Community Health Worker Intervention (“the Intervention”), specifically concerns itself with the Irula community in the Reserve. This holistic program partially addresses cultural dislocation and psychosocial problems that hinder the effectiveness of allopathic and preventative medicine. Individuals unable to afford medicinal prescriptions receive financial support through the program. In addition, other Irula receive community health worker training. The Banyan, an NGO focused on the mental health of women in India, contributes training modules. Through facilitating and monitoring allopathic and preventative care access, the Intervention advances the living conditions of the Adivasis. Further, educating Irula on medical science and destigmatizing mental illness, as well as addressing socioeconomic root causes are also contributors.
- The Ankur Trust
The indigenous Katkari people of the Maharashtra region suffer from poor health outcomes, worsened by an alcohol addiction epidemic and possibly specious family planning measures. Despite strong historic land claims, the Katkari hold title to a mere four percent of land in Maharashtra. Moreover, health care subsidy and budget cuts impair Katkari access to allopathic and preventative medicine. Alongside an organization called SATHI, the Ankur Trust coordinated an awareness campaign in the Raigad district, consisting of a diagnostic survey and focus group symposia. Intending to improve the health care access of the Katkari indigenous people, the Ankur Trust realized that systemic impediments stood in the way of reaching Katkari women. The testimony of Katkari women at public hearings organized by the Ankur Trust disclosed the difficulties faced by Katkari women in opening bank accounts, consequently hindering receipt of health care subsidies.After a hearing held on June 6, 2019, Katkari women began seeking assistance from the Ankur Trust. Armed with this information, the Ankur Trust designed an outreach program, in which the leaders of the Katkari community would receive training that would enable formal registration of complaints with the government. This program enables the Katkari to hold the government accountable for unjust impediments to health care access. This results in better health outcomes and group cohesion, as well as increased trust in public officials. Thus, the efforts of organizations like the Ankur Trust, predicated on the importance of communication with public officials in the provision of necessary services, establish a strong precedent for strategies that raise the living conditions of the Adivasis.
- The Tribal Health Initiative
In 1992, Dr. Regi George and Dr. Lalitha Regi established the Tribal Health Initiative (“the Initiative”), which supports the Adivasis of Tamil Nadu’s Sittilingi Valley, Kalrayan Hills and adjoining regions. The Initiative operates outreach clinics in Neyyamalai and weekly outreach clinics in the Kalrayan Hills, providing health care access in remote areas. Each clinic hosts a primary lab and stocks an array of medicines, averting the need to send patients to the Base Hospital. Services offered by these clinics include pre-surgical and post-surgical procedures. Health workers from the Initiative provide health and hygiene classes to Adivasi youths in the Kalrayan Hills. Moreover, for tribal elders over 60 years old, the Initiative provides inexpensive health insurance. Each year, 500 tribal elders register for this service. The alarming growth in rates of hypertension in Adivasi communities, a negative consequence of lifestyle disruption and the introduction of unhealthy processed foods, concerns the Initiative. In collaboration with the University of California in San Francisco, the Initiative seeks to progress the state of hypertension diagnosis and prevention. The program consists of providing villages with the proper technology and knowledge to diagnose and treat hypertension. Such projects play an inestimable role in advancing the living conditions of the Adivasis.
The efforts of these organizations, though regional in scope, improve the living conditions of the Adivasis. Further, the efforts lay a foundation for the progress of the health outcomes of India’s indigenous peoples. Ultimately, these efforts serve not just the Adivasis but ensure the collective health of India.
– Philip Daniel Glass