Incredible India - Saturday

March 04, 2006

With 25 million babies born annually in India, ensuring they all have a safe and healthy start to life is a considerable challenge. This morning, I visited the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital, one of India’s oldest and most prolific vaccination strongholds.

At 50 years old, with some 900,000 patients a year, and only basic resources at hand…the hospital is not without its challenges. The wards are small and the demand is high, but good will abounds, and the staff’s tireless professionalism, compassion and commitment means that everyone is given the best care possible. I was given a fascinating insight into the busy lives of the doctors, nurses and administrators as they strive to dispense life-saving vaccines to India’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

As a mother of four young children, and a member of the GAVI Fund, I know how effective this simple interventionist medicine can be. And so does the Indian government. Thanks to their responsible vaccination program and its comprehensive coverage, last year only 66 cases of polio were reported.

In a country numbering a billion people, that is a remarkable achievement. In my conversation with the parents of 4 month old baby, Snetha, to whom I gave some polio drops, they expressed their appreciation of the care and medication they were receiving. Like parents anywhere, they wanted the best possible start to life for their baby.

Judging by Snetha’s healthy glow and alert eyes, I had no doubt that she had received it, and would continue to blossom.And with that, my short but, memorable, trip ended.

My experiences have certainly whetted my appetite to explore India further, and I am very much looking forward to a return visit in the not-too-distant future.

To those of you who haven’t visited India, I encourage you to go…not just for the culture, color, and cuisine, but for the warmth, hospitality and graciousness of the Indian people.