Photo Credit: Yehia Houry
Most people know about Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia: National Geographic documentaries, Blockbuster movies, “Reality” slum tours, Harvard case studies, you name it. But how many have heard of Pratap Nagar, Golibar Rd, Mahim Creek, and Kamathipura? All slums in Mumbai which remain unnoticed to the outside world.
With 55% of the city’s population living in slums, which barely cover 5% of the city’s land, these jam-packed communities are subject to many problems, affecting water, sanitation, hygiene, housing and electricity, to name just a few. These poor human living conditions and an absolute lack of basic services make people much more prone to diseases and accidents.
That’s why Dial 1298, one of Acumen’s investees in India and the first reliable ambulance and emergency medical response service in India, has initiated a pilot program for a community of 50,000 people in Kamraj Nagar, one of the many ‘forgotten slums’ of Mumbai. With the help of our two partners, SNEHA, an organization that empowers women and children within slum households, and LIHS, experts at providing life support and EMS education in emergency situations, we are providing emergency health training for young community leaders in the slums, and will soon start placing ambulances locally for awareness and education. This project, whose initial research was conducted by Acumen Fellow Joanna Harries, will pave the way to a cost-effective customized BPL (below the poverty line) marketing plan that would be financially self-sustainable.
This picture was taken during one of our trainings, when a little girl saw the commotion around the bright yellow ambulance and decided to join in the fun. The 1298 poster behind her was actually grabbed from my bag and put up on the door by one of the health center volunteers who got really excited at the prospect of finally having a reliable ambulance service in her community.
The harsh infrastructure conditions in these slums do make me realize just how difficult it is for an ambulance to reach a patient within the “golden hour”, the span of time crucial for his survival. But I would like to believe that having a vehicle parked closer to the community and conducting as many emergency training sessions as we can afford to, coupled with a customized marketing campaign aimed at creating a paradigm shift in people’s minds about a reliable ambulance service affordable to everyone, will make a difference. We are off to a slow, but steady, start.
Yehia Houry is a Class of 2010 Acumen Fund Fellow who has spent the past 9 months in Mumbai working with Dial 1298.