Archive for 'Health'

India: Euthanasia Allowed in Extreme Cases

Posted on March 27, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International.

MUMBAI, India – Nearly four decades ago a janitor at a Mumbai hospital raped a young nurse, strangling her with a dog chain. The nurse, Aruna Shanbaug, plunged into a vegetative state from which she never recovered.

Thirty-seven years later, the courts say she could be allowed to die — should those who care for her deem it the best decision. Right-to-die activists are heralding the landmark ruling as as step forward, though in a somewhat surprising turn of events, the nurses who care for Shanbaug have not chosen to exercise this new right.

Regardless, the court’s decision to allow passive euthanasia has once again provoked debate over whether terminally ill patients should be allowed to die willfully.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Surrogacy Turned Nightmare in Mumbai

Posted on March 10, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

MUMBAI, India — “Chai Baby,” “Baby Masala” and “Made in India.” These are a few of the many blogs written by infertile Westerners trying to start a family through surrogacy in India. For the most part, the blogs tell tales of frustration, nervous anticipation and joy.

Commercial surrogacy has boomed in recent years as a result of India’s low cost of labor, lack of regulations and relatively inexpensive yet high quality medical care.

Surrogacy, which can cost upwards of $70,000 in the United States, is only a quarter of that in India. The Indian women who carry the babies earn about $5,000 to $7,000, upwards of 10 years’ salary for rural Indians.

“India is fast becoming a hub for surrogacy,” said Amit Karkhanis, a lawyer in Mumbai whose office, KayLegal, gets one new query a day from someone who wants to come to India to have a baby via surrogacy. “Five years ago, we were not even doing this.”

But not every surrogacy story has a happy ending, and given the fact that each country has its own laws on the matter, some Westerners who have engaged in the practice in India are finding themselves in legal limbo. As a result, the Indian government may soon regulate the surrogacy industry.

Consider the case of Kari Ann Volden, from Norway.

Continue reading from GlobalPost.

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Dying for the Basics (Audio)

Posted on February 25, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

CBC Radio’s Dispatches is replaying my story on maternal mortality in Assam’s tea gardens as well as an interview with me.

“If Sulekha Lohar only had access to an ambulance instead of that handcart in rural India. If the local clinic just had a doctor instead of empty shelves. If the nearest hospital just had a blood bank, her children might still have their mother. Troubling public health issues facing women in the developing world have been the focue of Hanna Ingber Win’s work. ”

Listen to the story and interview with me.

Follow me on Twitter: Hanna_India

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How Boat Clinics Are Transforming Rural India

Posted on August 4, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International.

A fisherman stands knee-deep in the river as a boat pulls up to the bank in the northeastern Indian village of Tengatoli. A crew made up of doctors, nurses, and one pharmacist grab bags of medical supplies and lug a large generator toward the bamboo homes in the distance.

Outside a thatched house, a bare-chested man squats on the ground next to a basket of fresh chiles. He holds down a piece of bamboo with one hand and whacks it with a sickle with the other. Outside a thatched home, young men sort peanuts spread out before them. Inside, a family of baby chickens chases each other under a makeshift wooden bed.

The boat crew sets up the generator and a projector and screen inside a bamboo structure that serves as the village’s schoolhouse. Women in brightly colored saris with babies in arm file into the schoolhouse-turned-cinema to watch a film about family planning, child immunizations, and the importance of antenatal checkups. Much of the film is in Assamese, and these women speak Bengali. But they watch intently. For most of them, it is the first time they have ever seen a video.

About three million people live in socially and geographically isolated villages like this one along the Brahmaputra, a massive river that stretches from Tibet to Bangladesh. Most of the villages do not have electricity, roads, secondary schools, clinics, or proper toilets. Five years ago, an organization called the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES)—realizing the government was not in the position to build clinics on these islands and the people could not access services on the mainland—decided to take healthcare to the islands.

Continue reading at GOOD.

(more…)

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Maternal Mortality in India: Photo Montage

Posted on July 6, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

Hanna Ingber Win explains her Pulitzer Center reporting project in this photo montage:

Learn more about this reporting project.

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Life Beyond Birth, India (Audio, Photos)

Posted on June 22, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

“If Sulekha Lohar had only had access to an ambulance instead of that handcart.

If the clinic just had a doctor, instead of just empty shelves.

If the hospital only had a bloodbank, as we hear from American journalist Hanna Ingber Win, Sulekha’s children might still have their mother.”

Listen to Hanna’s dispatch from a tea plantation in Assam plus an interview with her on maternal mortality in India. The story and interview aired on CBC Radio’s “Dispatches.”

Go to CBC Radio for Hanna’s slideshow from Assam.

This reporting was sponsored by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Learn more about this reporting project.

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Looking for Hope in Child Brides

Posted on June 9, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

I had written about child marriage before. When I went to Ethiopia, I visited a program for girls who had fled early marriage in their villages and ended up in the capital Addis Ababa. I met a classroom full of such young girls. With their schoolbooks in hand, they looked like kids, not brides. I talked to some of the girls in depth about how their desire to continue their schooling had pushed them to leave their families and traditions behind and flee to what they hoped would be a better life. These girls had dreams, and the courage to pursue them.

This time, in a small village on a remote island on the Brahmaputra River in northeastern India, the story was still on child marriage, but everything was different.

This time, the girl, Hasina Khatun, did not want to continue her education. She had not been to school a day in her life. Hasina was 13 when her aunt had told her she would get married. Like the girls I met in Ethiopia, Hasina did not want to leave her family behind and start a new life with a husband. But unlike the others, she accepted her life. When I asked if she had goals or dreams, she couldn’t think of any.

Unlike the girls in Addis, Hasina hadn’t fled.

Whether in Ethiopia or India, girls who have a baby under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s, according to the UN Population Fund. Girls 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die.

Wherever the girl lives, child marriage increases the likelihood of domestic violence. It generally lowers the age of a first birth and ends a girl’s opportunity to get an education, thereby decreasing her chances of employment and earning potential. Sent away from her family and village, the girl is likely to loose her support network and face social isolation.

In Ethiopia, this information served as a backdrop for what the girls I met had escaped. In India, as I chatted with Hasina inside a bamboo shack on the island, her life felt like a checklist.

Domestic violence? Three days after getting married, her 19-year-old husband told her they would have sex. She said no. He forced himself on her. Check.

Low age of first birth? She’s now 15 and five months pregnant. Check.

Education? She works in her in-laws home, helping cook and clean. She lives on an island with no secondary schools and couldn’t get an education if she wanted one. Check.

Isolation? Her family and friends live 25 kilometers away on the mainland. It takes a boat two to three hours to get there. Check.

Physical health? Hasina’s hemoglobin level, which should be at least 11 grams per deciliter, is 6.4. She’s severely anemic. Check.

As I interviewed Hasina, I had a million things on my mind: getting this timid young girl to open up, jotting down details on the chickens wandering around us, convincing the male translators to ask my questions on sex, shooing away the neighbors and husband who kept crowding around the door.

It wasn’t until I left Hasina and her village of 886 people, got back on the boat and checked into my humble hotel on the mainland that I began to process the girl’s story. I connected my camera to my laptop and began downloading photographs of Hasina.  I sat alone in my room and stared into an image of her face. Hasina does not look like a woman or a wife or a mother. She looks like a sweet young thing.

The girls in Ethiopia will undoubtedly have difficult lives trying to survive as teen migrants in the capital. Many of them must work as domestic helpers while trying to continue their education. But those girls see potential in their lives, and they will strive to achieve it.

Hasina sees nothing.

She has decided that despite what the boat clinic nurses and doctors tell her, she will give birth at home. Her body might be too small and undeveloped to handle the burden of a pregnancy, her home might be hours away from medical help if there is a complication, but she says she does not care.

As a reporter, I kept trying to get Hasina to tell me something positive or uplifting about her life. I thought my story would be better if I could add a happy twist and show what gives Hasina – just like other teenage girls around the world – a sense of joy.

And yet, I couldn’t find anything. Perhaps I didn’t ask the right questions, perhaps I didn’t stay with her long enough. I am sure there must be something that makes this young girl roll over with laughter. But I didn’t find it.

At the time, I wanted that extra information for my story. It would be my ending. Now, as I look at the photographs of Hasina over and over, as I envision her holding her sari up to her face as she whispered one-word answers, I realize I was looking for a piece of joy for myself, too. Without it, I am left with the image of a young girl with a swollen belly and not a shimmer of hope.

Read more about Hasina here.

Follow Hanna on Twitter @Hanna_India.

This reporting was sponsored by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Learn more about this reporting project.

This originally appeared on True/Slant.

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India: Married as Children

Posted on June 3, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

PITHAKHAITI, India — Growing up in a small village in northeastern India, Hasina Khatun spent her days helping her aunt around the house and playing with her siblings. She did not drop out of school; she never started. Hasina began menstruating at the age of 13 and soon after her aunt, who raised her after her mother died, told her it was time to get married. Hasina did not understand what her aunt meant, or that her life was about to change dramatically.

“I thought marriage was a game,” Hasina says as she sits in a bamboo home in her husband’s village. She fidgets with her orange, black and green sari that covers her head and falls over her breasts, unusually big for her tiny frame. Hasina is now 15 and five months pregnant.

Nearly half of girls in India are married before they turn 18, according to the International Center for Research on Women, making India home to a third of the world’s child brides. In India, there is often social pressure on women to give birth soon after marriage to prove their fertility. Child brides like Hasina — even though their bodies are often too small and undeveloped to handle the burden of a pregnancy — are no exception.

Child marriage increases the chances of a maternal death due to an increase in the likelihood of pregnancy complications combined with lack of knowledge about maternal health, lack of control over medical decisions and lack of access to timely and adequate health care. A girl who gives birth under the age of 15 is five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in her 20s, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Girls 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die.

Continue reading and view the slideshow at GlobalPost.

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India: The Challenge of Educating Muslim Girls

Posted on June 1, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

VIHOOR, India — The air feels cool at this early hour in the village.

As roosters yap away, a small truck delivers a crate of plastic bags filled with fresh milk to a roadside shop. A man rides by on a bicycle with a girl in her school uniform sitting in front and two little girls behind him.

On both sides of the road, girls in matching blue and white outfits gather at the bus stops. A young one with braided pigtails and a backpack waits patiently. An older one wearing a white headscarf and matching pants soon joins her, and a mother dressed in a black burqa walks them to school.

In Vihoor village on the Konkan Coast about 100 miles south of Mumbai, the Muslim women almost all stay at home raising their children, and when they go out, they virtually all wear the burqa. In many ways, the village is conservative and deeply entrenched in tradition, yet family after family here said their community is undergoing a significant if gradual change: more girls are going to school, and for longer.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Health Food Booms in India

Posted on June 1, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Business, Health, India, International.

MUMBAI, India — As I devour a (delicious) frozen yogurt, store manager Ankush Chopra tells me that Indian celebrities frequently visit his Mumbai shop. He rattles off names of Bollywood stars and then pulls out his mobile phone to show me proof. He turns his phone to me so I can see the photograph he took of one such actor, Jackie Shroff, wearing sunglasses and sitting in his car in front of the store.

“He has taken the ‘berry blast’ flavor, one medium, one small,” Chopra tells me. “With all the berries [as toppings] – strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry.”

Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon prefers the original flavor, Chopra adds.

As we chat in the store’s outdoor seating in Mumbai’s relatively posh Pali Hill neighborhood, a deliveryman from the nearby market walks up to the shop, carrying a two-foot wide basket of fresh strawberries on his head.

Cocoberry, India’s first non-fat premium frozen yogurt, opened a year ago in an effort to capitalize on a rising demand for health food among India’s growing class of wealthy consumers. The health food market, measured at $92 million in the end of 2008, is expected to nearly triple in size by the end of 2013, according to Shushmul Maheshwari, the chief executive of market-research company RNCOS.

The beginning of an organized, formal market for health food began a few years ago when big retailers began offering health products in their stores, Maheshwari wrote in an email. This developed as a result of a rise in education level and the emergence of strong advertising channels by which retailers could reach consumers.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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