1Posted by Lindsey Mastis on April 27, 2013 at 9:02 PM
My phone lit up with a news alert. I saw the words “Boston Marathon” and “explosion,” and I ran to the nearest television. At first I thought I was looking at footage from an attack in a foreign country. But then I noticed people in running gear. “How do you turn the volume on?” I asked. Soon, the volume was up and a crowd of people hovered around the television. Phones started ringing. The newsroom became alive.
I called up my office in DC and let them know I was there to help. But working out of the Los Angeles office meant I couldn’t be further away from what was happening. It didn’t make sense for me to report on the explosions. As a reporter, it’s hard to ignore a major news event.
I called the police and sheriff’s departments in LA to find out whether they were concerned about an attack here. I did a quick radio report and then told myself to re-focus on my work. But no one was returning my calls.
A few days later, there was an explosion in the city of West, Texas. Around 9 pm I got the call. I had to go to West. I grabbed my “go” bag (and had to pack since I had just gotten back from Vegas a few days before) and I took off to the airport.
It was short, overnight flight. I arrived in Houston, rented a car, and drove nearly 4 hours to Waco where I did a series of live shots for CCTV English. The program broadcasts from Beijing. I worked with an AP live crew to report from the hospital where more than 100 people were taken with injuries.
I figured I’d be there for a few days, at least. No one knew how many lives were lost. You could see the shock on people’s faces. They were tired, worried, and extremely saddened. People donated blood, and clothes, and food, and toys. It hadn’t been 24 hours and already the community had come together to help each other.
Stories like these always touch my heart.
I worked through the night, doing live shots, and putting together video. At about 4 a.m. I checked into my hotel and about 30 minutes later I was asleep.
The phone rang at 6 a.m. There had been a new development in Boston. The city was on lockdown. A police officer was dead. I had to get up there right away.
I drove back down to Houston and caught a plane to Boston. As the plane landed I noticed there were hardly any cars on the road. A man sitting next to me said he lived in Boston, and he had never seen the city on lockdown like this. It was eerie.
I had to hit the ground running. I met up with my Feature Story News colleagues, Nathan King (New York office), Stephen Fee (New York office), and Nick Harper (DC headquarters). We worked as a team. Nathan would do a live shot from one location. Nick would be at another. Me and Stephen would venture out to get video. Then we would all swap.
The first place I went was Watertown. We had heard police may have located the suspect. We were less than a mile from where the arrest would take place. A helicopter circled overhead. A dog barked. Was it a bomb-sniffing dog?
It was night. But the sky was not dark. It seemed that every light that could be on, was on. The streets were barricaded. Officers from different divisions patrolled, and military-looking vehicles made their way along the main road. Police in neon yellow jackets held giant black assault rifles. I wouldn’t say everyone was on edge. But there was definitely a feeling of anticipation.
Once it had been announced the suspect was captured, there was relief. Although there were reports that police clapped, and people cheered, I didn’t see that from where I was standing. Instead, I saw special police forces arrive in the parking log. They were taking off their tactical gear. They were packing up their tools. We all wondered whether it was really over.
I uploaded a photo to Instagram and felt good about getting this comment:
Soon, a news conference was held. I sat in the very front with my iPhone as my colleagues did live shots. The mayor, the governor, the FBI, the US Attorney, the police commissioner, and others all spoke. They gave us more details than we would have time to report.
The next morning we headed back to Watertown and got as close as we could to the home where police arrested the suspect. Neighbors were out, eager to talk about what they heard and saw. It had sounded like a battle erupted in their sleepy town. The mood was happy. These people seemed to have felt pride that their town helped end one of the largest manhunts on American soil.
Boston is one of my favorite American cities. Birthplace of freedom, is what license plates say. A couple of years earlier I had visited for a day, stopping by Paul Revere’s home and getting a look at the USS Constitution, also known as “Old Ironsides.” You can’t get much more American than Boston. So you can imagine just how important baseball games are.
Me, Nick, and Stephen (Nathan had traveled back to New York), went to Fenway Park and interviewed people attending the Red Sox game. I was struck by what two women told me. They said they were worried about going to the game because so many people were in once place. And now they knew it would make an ideal terrorist target. They hadn’t ever thought of that before. This is one of those moments when, as a reporter, I realize just how much this one event has impacted people. And they will never, fully, get over it.
Here is a panoramic picture I took at the makeshift memorial:
In the coming days, we would attend the funeral of Krystle Campbell. There were hundreds of people lined up to attend the mass at her Catholic church, but they had to be turned away because it was full. I had never seen so many flowers at a funeral before. It was beautiful and extremely sad.
I don’t ever include my religion or religious views in my reporting. But when I attend a funeral such as this, I do take a minute to pray. When I shut my eyes to say the Lord’s prayer in my head, I felt an overwhelming sensation. I had just attended the funeral for my Yia Yia (Greek for grandma) a few weeks ago, and that overwhelming sadness and sense of peace rushed over me once again. I looked up at the faces of the family and saw tears. I looked up even higher at the cross and noticed a streak in the sky. Yes, it was a plane, but for some reason, I felt it was significant.
Our team also attended the moment of silence at the makeshift memorial. I went to the public memorial service for Chinese National Lingzi Lu. I came with my camera, because I had lined up an interview with a member of the Chinese student association. Many people don’t realize that during an event like this, there are a limited number of cameras allowed into the service. News agencies participate in what is called a “pool feed.” That means I had to use photos from the Boston Globe, which had a photographer allowed in, and we get video from one news organization that was allowed inside. We all have to share. So I watched the memorial service form a closed-circuit television in a makeshift media room at Boston University.
As the week progressed, Stephen went back to New York, and Nick went back to DC. Nina-Maria Potts then arrived and we worked together as a team.
She went with me to the hospital to shoot an interview with Dangling Zhou. She wanted to talk on camera from her hospital bed. She had been standing next to Lingzi Lu when the bombs went off. I sat with her. I told her she didn’t have to answer any question she didn’t want. But she did answer every question and went into detail.
She was seriously injured in the second blast. She described looking at her limbs to make sure they were there. She noticed her belly had been split open and she told me she tried to push it all back in. I can’t imagine what that was like.
She said her friend Lingzi did not look very hurt. As Dangling went through surgery after surgery, she would ask about her friend. She was told Lingzi couldn’t be found. Eventually, she learned her friend had died.
But the reason she wanted to talk on camera was to thank everyone that had helped her. She must have talked for five minutes straight, trying to name everyone that helped her. The doctors, nurses, counselors, the US and Chinese governments, and on, and on, and on. I made sure to include as much as I could in the story.
Her mother was there, as was her cousin. The US and Chinese governments rushed to get them visas so they could be at her side. Her mother is planning to stay in the US for a few months to help her daughter recover. Dangling does not know whether she’ll stay in Boston or go back to China.
Parents in China often send their children to the US to get a good education. They expect their children to be safe. And then something like this happens. What makes it even worse is that China has a one-child policy. And traditionally, these children are expected to care for their parents as they age. When Lingzi died, her family lost their only child and likely the means to support themselves in old age.
I talked with a couple of Chinese students a few days after the suspect was caught. They told me their parents were very worried about having them study in US, but both said they thought things would get better and that an education at Boston University was important to achieve.
After a few days, the spotlight was once again on the surviving suspect. He was being treated at the same hospital where many of his victims were recovering. Their families are now demanding he be moved out. A judge visited him bedside and he was charged with federal crimes and could face the death penalty.
But what I found most interesting was what was happening to his older, deceased brother. In the years following 9/11, Americans started to hear that Islamic extremists thought it was okay to kill innocent people that did not believe in Allah. Well, mosques in Boston seemed to want to change that perception. I spoke with one of the most prominent Imams in Boston, Imam Talal Eid. He said the elder brother was going to hell for killing innocent people. Eid said he is refusing to perform Muslim burial rituals for the suspect. Other Imams have taken the same stance. It doesn’t mean the suspect will go without a Muslim burial, but it means a great deal when Imams decide to publicly state that they won’t participate.
I also visited the Islamic Society of Boston. It is a beautiful, hand-painted building in Cambridge. In many ways, it reminded me of the mosques and palaces in India. This is where the brothers would occasionally worship. The older brother had been asked to leave for disrupting sermons. In retrospect, there were signs that he was extreme. But no know knew him personally, and a spokeswoman says no one could have imagined what the brothers had planned.
Lawmakers are starting to point fingers at US intelligence agencies for failing for monitor the older brother, even after Russia requested he be questioned. Now, investigators are flying the suspects parents to the US. The mother claims her boys are innocent and were framed.
Another difficult thing about reporting these kinds of stories, are how a very small number of outsiders spend their energy trying to twist the truth. I had to stay up late one night deleting video links from the comments section of my Facebook page. It was a series of conspiracy theories. Some seemed to claim that those injured were faking it.
In the US, there’s free speech. But when it comes to my personal Facebook page, I don’t think it proper to allow someone to spread lies. Especially when it was me that sat down next to a victim in the hospital as she explained her horrific experience.
Is there more to the story we in the media have been given? Perhaps. But there’s no disputing the fact two bombs went off, injured more than 200 people, killing three, and maiming so many others.
As I prepared to leave Boston, Boylston street re-opened. The blood had been scrubbed off the sidewalk, and the pavement had been repaired. I saw one restaurant still boarded up. In front of it is where one of the blasts happened.
I’m a runner. I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon. Next time I run a race, I will definitely be thinking of the Boston Marathon. I’ll never forget.
2Posted by Lindsey Mastis on March 24, 2013 at 2:26 PM
Kamarunnisa, 18, lives with family in a government resettlement colony in Mumbai, India. She suffers from drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Kamarunnisa uses all her strength to hold her head up as a health worker enters her family’s one-room apartment in Mumbai, India. Her back is against the wall as she sits in her bed. A pink patterned scarf covers her hair. Her face is pale, yet her eyes continue to sparkle. She is suffering from tuberculosis, and in her case, drugs aren’t working.
More than 8,700 miles away, a nurse sticks a needle into Angela Lyons’ arm. On her lap is a black trash bag filled with her belongings. She squeezes her eyes closed until the needle is out. She is among dozens of homeless being tested for TB in a recreation room at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row.
According to the World Health Report’s latest estimate, 8.7 million new cases of tuberculosis were diagnosed worldwide in 2011, and more than one million people died. The disease affects the lungs but is treatable if caught early. When it comes to tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, where a person lives can mean the difference between life and death.
M Ward, Mumbai, India
A boy holds up a piece of paper he found amongst the trash-filled streets in a government resettlement colony in M Ward located in Mumbai, India.
Kamarunnisa is 18 years old and lives with her family in a government resettlement colony in Mumbai’s M Ward after the illegal slum they were living in was demolished to make way for new construction. The tall concrete buildings seem to block the sunlight. The alleyways are dark and full of trash. These buildings house thousands of people. Families sleep together in one room, with the kitchen is just feet away. Outside, trash fills the streets and mosquitoes breed where water sits stagnant in clogged drainage ditches. This is a place where rats die. A place where disease is rampant.
The non-governmental organization Doctors For You operates a drop-in clinic on the first floor of one of the buildings. Hand made signs are posted outside each door to direct people to different departments. Doctors and medical students provide primary health services to this community, and often treat tuberculosis patients. Treatment is a six-month process. The medicine Doctors For You provides is free, and it’s staff conduct home visits for patients like Kamarunnisa who is too weak to leave the family’s apartment.
Kamarunnisa’s mother, Sarumisa, stands in the doorway of her home, surrounded by family and friends.
Kamarunnisa’s mother, Sarumisa, cares for her. Sitting just feet away from her daughter, Sarumisa’s eyes fill with tears. She says her daughter seems too young to die, but her prognosis isn’t good. The family is Muslim, and Sarumisa says she must accept her daughter’s fate, even if it’s death. Although Kamarunnisa continues sits quietly on the bed, she eventually flashes a hopeful smile.
Health workers say there’s a reason drugs aren’t working for Kamarunnisa. She had tuberculosis once before, and then got jaundice. And then the tuberculosis came back. She likely has a mutated form of TB, making effective treatment more difficult if not impossible. To make matters worse, the medicine meant to treat Kamarunnisa makes her sick, and she can’t keep it down.
Sarumisa blames her daughter’s illness on the government resettlement colony. She believes her daughter would have never gotten the disease if the family were able to stay in their shanty built in an illegal slum. Her sentiments are echoed by others living in the colony. They say this place is worse than a slum.
A health worker helping treat Kamarunnisa, says the infection rate would likely be reduced by half if the community was cleaned up. But there is little motivation for the government to clean up. And as for residents, efforts to clean common spaces are futile. There are too many people living in desperate conditions, feeling overwhelmed and powerless.
Skid Row, Los Angeles
Angela Lyons has lived in the Skid Row area for 10 years, and recently checked into a shelter.
Angela is alone, although she has two grown children. She says she became homeless after her own parents died about 10 years ago. She wears a purple bandana with black stripes and keeps her belongings close. She used to live on the streets, but recently transitioned into a shelter where she sleeps in a small room with strangers.
All along Skid Row are piles of trash and needles discarded by drug addicts. During the day, those with addictions and mental illnesses roam the streets. At night, people pitch tents and sleep on sidewalks. It’s a place most people dare not go. The rats running underneath the streets and sidewalks often die of disease. Sometimes, so do people.
Angela calls it the “death rattle.” It’s how she describes the coughs she hears from those extremely sick. One of the symptoms of tuberculosis is coughing. It’s also how the disease is spread. Angela must protect herself from this disease because her health is already compromised. She has Hepatitis C, a disease affecting the liver.
There’s been a lot of talk about TB in Skid Row lately after the health department linked cases to the community’s homeless population, which included 11 deaths. But the data includes cases from 2007 to now. There were 78 cases among homeless in Los Angeles during a five-year span. It’s considered an outbreak. An epidemic. The general public is alarmed.
Angela shuts her eyes as a nurse performs a TB test by poking a needle in her arm.
Inside the Union Rescue Mission, Angela sits at a table across from a nurse practitioner that asks her whether she’s had a fever, night sweats, or unexplained weight loss. These are all symptoms of TB. Angela then gets up and walks a few steps to the other end of the table where a different nurse cleans her forearm before performing the TB test. It only takes a few seconds.
The results will be read in two days. If it’s positive, Angela will have to get an X-ray which is more accurate. Everyone staying in a Skid Row shelter or participating in a shelter program, such as a drug-rehabilitation program, is required to get a TB test. It’s a preventative measure meant to keep infections from spreading.
Kamarunnisa and Angela both live in communities where diseases thrive. In developing countries like India, treatment is more often reactive. Developed countries like the United States are more likely to pour resources into screening and preventative measures. The health department even pays to house people with tuberculosis elsewhere, so they don’t infect others. That means Angela is less likely to encounter someone that is infected. But Kamarunnisa continues to sleep inches away from her parents and siblings. If she coughs, she can easily spread the disease.
The precautions taken by public health officials in Los Angeles to ward off outbreaks of tuberculosis is in stark contrast to measures taken in countries where the disease proves more deadly. Many humanitarian organizations work with the government to treat cases of TB. But drug resistant strains continue to cause international concern. Just this month the World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, said $1.6 billion needs to raised annually to help treat and prevent drug resistant strains.
On the other side of the globe, in the United States, there were a little more than 10,500 cases of tuberculosis that same year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, foreign born patients accounted for 62 percent of those cases, meaning those people were likely infected abroad.
Alas, when it comes to tuberculosis, where a person lives can mean the difference between life and death.
3Posted by Lindsey Mastis on March 13, 2013 at 3:08 PM
Lindsey Mastis tries to shoot her own standup in a slum outside Mumbai, India. A picture taken through a dirty bus window shows the large crowd gathered to watch. Photo: Joy Doreen Biira/International Reporting Project
Part of my job as a television broadcast reporter is getting in front of the camera and doing what’s called a “standup.” Literally, it means I stand up in front of the camera and record myself talking. The goal is to ‘show and tell’ in a way that is most effectively done by the reporter, or narrator if you will. It’s one of the hardest parts of my job because I’m a video correspondent responsible for being behind the camera and in front of the lens without any help.
Usually, I find someone near me to stand in so I can focus my camera. Then I press record, stand in about the same spot, and hope for the best. But in India, doing these standups was much more difficult. Especially in a place called Bhiwandi.
It was my second day of reporting with the International Reporting Project*. I was told that our group was only the second set of visitors the community had seen in four years. We looked different than everyone around us. We had cameras, although we tried to shield much of our equipment from until we could accomplish our goal of visiting Operation ASHA and talking with the organization about tracking patients from migrant families.
I was getting great information, but knew I needed to also shoot a standup. The longer we were there, the larger and louder the crowd grew. Our group leaders noticed the crowd was becoming mob. We had to leave.
We ducked out the back door and walked through the narrow pathways. Soon the crowd was all around us. People were tugging on my arms and shoulders. Young men were demanding I stop and take pictures with them. But there were just too many people. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stop. The crowd was too excited and there seemed to be no boundaries.
When we got to our bus, I noticed the crowd hadn’t quite caught up. I decided to take a chance and try to shoot a standup behind the bus. I took my camera and ran around. But I couldn’t get it leveled and focused soon enough. Young boys surrounded me first. Then teenagers. Then young men. Then men with facial hair. Every time I tried to speak, I was pushed. It wasn’t malicious. It was just a big crowd and everyone wanted to see what I was doing.
Every time I tried to speak, the crowd got loud. I put my finger over my lips, trying to use what I hoped was the universal sign for “Shhhh.” It didn’t work. Then I noticed my camera started getting knocked. It just slightly, but I couldn’t risk having the camera fall because it would jeopardize my ability to report during the rest of the trip. I ended up regretting taking the chance at all, because my attempt for a standup was unsuccessful.
A member from our group took a picture of me from the bus window. Looking at this picture, I clearly noticed the groups of boys and men. The young boys were in a circle around me. Teens behind them. Then young adults. Then men. Circle after circle. It was so obvious.
The entire standup attempt took me 2 minutes and 9 seconds. I never got a full sentence out because I’d get pushed, or the crowd would yell too loud, or the camera would get bumped. And because of my camera, I wasn’t even sure whether I was in frame.
What did I learn? An important lesson on recognizing when to pack up and call it a day.
4Posted by Lindsey Mastis on March 6, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Most people in India live in rural villages. These communities are very different from the overcrowded slums and streets of Mumbai. Although it seems people have more room, there are just as many challenges.
I flew with a group of journalists from the International Reporting Project* to Nagpur in Maharashtra state in India. Then took a charter bus southeast to Gadchiroli, a little more than three hours away. There, we visited with representatives from SEARCH, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that stands for “Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health.”
We met with the founders, a husband and wife team – both doctors – that have made it their mission to bring health care to villages and tribes. India is huge, and hospitals are spread far and wide. I learned SEARCH is filling the gap, bringing health case to people that would otherwise have no means to get to a hospital.
While touring the facility, I saw a little boy in a large hospital bed. His family was taking turns watching over him. Nurses explained he was suffering from seizures and epilepsy. It’s possible his condition stems from some of the same preventable health issues I was focusing on. This tiny little child was just two years old, and his face was covered by an oxygen mask. He was from a local tribe, nurses explained. Had SEARCH not been there, this little boy would likely be suffering at home.
In another room, I met an 8-month old boy wearing bright pink. His mother was excited to show off her son because he was getting well. I was told he had malaria and shortly after arriving at SEARCH, his temperature was brought down and he started to get well. He seemed like such a happy baby, and it was hard to imagine what would have happened to this child had health services been completely out of reach.
After touring the complex, we set out by bus to different villages. I met with a woman in her 40s who is responsible for saving the lives of several babies each year by using a breathing apparatus on newborns that fail to breath after being born. This woman had an entire kit to help babies in their first hours of life, which is critical in a country where 900,000 newborns die each year according to the World Health Organization.
The woman is part of India’s ASHA program, which stands for Accredited Social Health Activists, and in Hindi, means “hope.” The government of India instituted this program, but each ASHA is responsible for providing healthcare and information to about 1,000 people.
We followed the ASHA through the village to the home of a woman who just gave birth 14 days earlier. The ASHA weighed the newborn and happily reported that the child was of a healthy weight. This is a success story.
The child has not yet been named, in accordance with tradition. Although many people in India say they wait for naming ceremonies, some admit the reason babies aren’t named for months is because so many die. The doctor at SEARCH said some families have become apathetic because childhood deaths are so common. That broke my heart.
I wanted to feel like every single child I met, mattered. That each one had the potential to make a positive difference in their communities. But I’m an American, and I grew up hearing rhetoric about the American Dream and that we each could achieve great success as a business owner, astronaut, forewoman, or even a President. It was something I I long believed. These aren’t the dreams of parents of these children. Their wishes are for the things us Americans take for granted: healthcare, clean water, transportation, education.
I loved visiting Gadchiroli. There seemed to be so much pride among it’s residents. Parents were proud of their children, and whole families were extremely hard-working. Seeing a couple success stories raised my spirits. I hope the child suffering from seizures makes a recovery as well.
3Posted by Lindsey Mastis on February 20, 2013 at 3:28 PM
I tried to observe as much as I could on the bus ride to a large slum in Mumbai. The streets along the way were crowded with rickshaws, motorcycles, and people. The rules of the road I’m so used to in America, seemed ignored or nonexistent here.
As our air-conditioned bus slowed, I noticed cows and goats. None of these animals looked particularly healthy. The cows, which are sacred to Hindus, looked skinny and weak. Most were laying on the ground, perhaps too tired to stand. The few that were standing, were in middle of trash piles.
Squatting next to a parked bus, was a little girl. She appeared to be less than five years of age, and there was no sign of anyone watching over her. I soon realized young children squat and relieve themselves almost anywhere.
They also play in streets, their hands filthy with dirt. It occurred to me that this is ideal for children and many seemed extremely happy to be getting dirty, having fun. It’s the same in the US, except American children are often scolded and taught not to get dirty or play in filth.
When our bus stopped, I looked out the window at the slum and noticed swarms of mosquitos. I had sprayed my clothes, arms, and hair with Deet in the morning, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough. Our group got off the bus and began walking.
I expected it to smell, but didn’t notice any foul odor. My eyes were too occupied with what they were seeing.
I’m traveling with the International Reporting Project, and were advised not to take pictures right away because of sensitivities. I was told many foreign media was not trusted over concerns about how India would be portrayed. And that the movie Slumdog Millionaire was considered highly offensive and because of it, Americans are trusted even less.
What I noticed first was stagnant water along the narrow dirt streets. Goats and dogs were laying next to the walls of shacks. Women that weren’t working outside, peered out of doorways and windows as we walked by. Rickshaws and motorcycles honked to get through, but their persistence didn’t seem to affect the general flow.
I visited with one of the families living here. Inside their home, it was cozy and warm. Generally, inviting. I talked to the head of the household, a skinny man holding a baby boy in his lap. He talked about life in the slum, and some of the issues he has with health.When I asked for his name, he pointed to the door where it was painted. He seemed proud of his community, saying it was his choice to move here because it provided more opportunity. He can make money here, although it is a tough life. Surprising, yes, because it’s not what anyone in America would consider a positive situation.
This particular slum is located on a giant trash heap. It’s the dump. People here make their living off what they find in the trash. They find goods, food, and recyclables. These people are called “Rag Pickers.” But it seems a lot of what they intend to do is sort recyclable materials from the rubbish and sell it to people within the community that collect it and take it to recycling centers for an even larger profit.
I saw two little boys helping sort a huge collection of plastic bottles. They appeared to be working hard, and without supervision.
I walked to the edge of the slum, where the trash heap hovered over the community. A yellow excavator sat at the very tip top. The entire pile looked more mud than trash. Everything was brown and gray.
We visited two slums. This one along the dump was an illegal slum. In both, we visited health offices, which are generally one room facilities with little privacy from the outside.
At a day-care, there was a small group of children sitting on the floor. Health workers find it best to treat kids at these places, versus relying on their parents to bring them in for check-ups.
I also visited an office with an outreach program where I met a 16-year-old girl, who looked much younger for her age. She beamed with pride. She told us her parents supported and encouraged her to become educated on topics of health and to share that knowledge with her community.
She’s been doing this for months and says it took a while before people would listen to her.
It can be extremely difficult for girls and women in Indian society living in the slums, because of tradition. It seems to partly explain why there’s an epidemic of child and mother deaths. It all has to do with nutrition. Here’s a surprising fact: In Indian culture, women are taught to eat last and the least. The head of the household, the man, eats first and the most, and then the children, and then the mother. Changing this idea won’t fix the problem, but it could help.
HIV and AIDS is also a big problem in India. In one of the slums I visited, I was told the disease is often spread by migrant workers employed to stitch details onto fabric. These men are away from their families and may visit a sex worker and contract the virus.
We learned a lot about the problems facing people in the slums. Being there gave me a greater understanding of the issue. I realized the importance of having medical programs at the grassroots level. These communities aren’t organized the way anyone in the US would expect, and probably not the way most Western countries would expect.
The way to help solve the problem of child and maternal mortality has to be done with the help from people within these communities. The people themselves need to be empowered and educated. And there has to be persistence, resilience, and patience. This is not a problem that can be easily or rapidly solved.
As for me, I got to get back on a bus and spend my evening with an abundance of food. I received vaccinations before I left the US, so I know I’m safe against many of the diseases suffered by the people I met. And, I didn’t notice one bug bite. It seems the most well-fed being in the slums are mosquitos.