Friday, October 3, 2014

Monsoon days

The monsoon arrived in Pune in July, bringing rain and the seasonally damp air that now, three months later, are starting to be replaced by sunshine and drier days as the rains subside. The monsoon is welcome as it is necessary for the success of crops and for replenishing the municipal drinking water reservoirs after the dry, hot summer months, but it also causes health and safety concerns for many of AIC's families.

During monsoon, homes in AIC’s impact area become very damp, and the ability to maintain sanitary conditions decreases. According to Dr. Madhavi, counselor and doctor on staff at AIC, there are several sicknesses that see a spike due to risk factors associated with monsoon season. For example, many families eat 2 or more meals a day from inexpensive and quick food stalls in the basti (slum), and due to unhygienic food preparation, reused cooking oil, and questionably sourced water, gastrointestinal upsets such as chronic diarrhea and nausea occur. In addition, contagious viral fevers with symptoms of runny nose, cough, and fever increase, and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever and, to a lesser extent in Pune, malaria become cause for concern.

Why so wet? Most housing structures in the slums are made from a combination of masonry material, corrugated sheet steel, and wooden support beams. Unfortunately the ability to created sealed joints using these materials is not possible, which results in leaks that can come from both the walls and the roof. Though leaks can’t usually be avoided 100%, measures can be taken to reduce the amount of water that enters the home by covering it with a heavy tarp, weighing it down with large rocks to protect it from blowing off in high winds, and securing it with rope. It is not a huge cost, usually around Rs. 3,000 (USD $50.00), but there are many who simply cannot afford it.

Billo, a Sikligar woman, lives with her four children, each of whom receives education and healthcare services from AIC (a fifth child currently stays with relatives in Mumbai). Her family’s partnership with AIC began in 2011; at that time they had been living in a makeshift tarpaulin shelter on the roadside and Billo was working as many hours as possible to provide what she could for her children as a day laborer, separating copper from scrap metal. When monsoon came every year, the family began a constant battle to keep their belongings dry, which sometimes meant moving everything to safer locations as and when they could. With sick children and an unstable living environment, Billo often missed days of work and her income suffered as a result.

This year Billo and her family moved into their first home, and during this monsoon season she will not have to worry about a leaking roof due to a Rs. 3,000 microloan that she obtained through the AIC Community Outreach Program. With a stable shelter and the security of knowing her family and belongings are safer, Billo says she can now work more hours and increase her income, which will help her family in the long run. With a home, a roof, and happier, healthier children who are doing well in school, the future certainly looks as if it will be brighter for Billo and her family for many monsoons to come.

Billo and Madhavi
(Written by Stephanie de Looz, AIC volunteer)


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