For the millions of devastatingly poor people dwelling in the slums of India’s metropolises, nutritious food, toilets and health care are often unattainable luxuries. But in Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi and Hyderabad, the women of the slums, NGOs, and government health workers have joined together to improve the health and well-being of women and children in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The partnership is supported by the World Bank’s India Population Project VIII (IPP VIII). Volunteers help bring the services to the poor.
In Hyderabad, for instance, women's health groups and community-revolving funds have made it possible for the women of the slums— perhaps for the first time— to finance improvements in their neighborhoods. They have used these seedling funds to improve civic amenities, such as sanitation systems, wells, and toilets. Income-generation schemes like tailoring centers have also been set up.
Highly successful, this program inspired a high extent of both NGO and community participation, resulting in significant health improvements. There are 22 NGOs delivering family planning and maternal and child health services in 662 slums of the city, with each NGO having autonomous authority over all project activities in 20 or more slums. Thousands of other community members have joined the project's innovative schemes, such as workshops for first-time mothers, nutrition education programs for girls, and nursery schools for children.
The three other IPP VIII cities can point to similar achievements. More than half of all eligible couples in the four project cities now use family planning methods compared to one-third earlier. More than 80 percent of pregnant women enjoy more frequent pre-birth check-ups. In Bangalore, Calcutta and Hyderabad, close to 90 percent of the women have safe births, and two-thirds of the babies are given measles immunizations. Innovative programs for school drop-outs and young girls have been introduced in all four cities. Encouraged by this success, the government and Bank recently agreed to expand the project to slums in 94 smaller towns in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.
Updated: July 2002