Medical needs of homeless neglected

Draft plan to meet medical needs of homeless gets no response from government

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Sonal Matharu | January 28, 2011



Callousness of bureaucracy and our urbanisation policies are responsible for the exclusion of the homeless people in the city and elsewhere, said Miloon Kothari, former UN special rapporteur on the rights to adequate housing here on Thursday.

“India has not adopted a human rights convention. Just providing shelter to the homeless is not enough. These shelters should be accessible,” said Kothari. He was speaking at a discussion at the India International Centre on ‘Below Count: medical services for the homeless in Delhi’.

Research shows that the health effects on the homeless are very severe and range from heart diseases, tuberculosis, skin problems, nutritional disorders, sleep deprivation, mental retardation and chronic stress, he said.

Dr Amod Kumar from department of community medicine, St. Stephens hospital, who mapped the city’s homeless and did an extensive survey on their health needs, said that the pain threshold for the homeless is very high. They do not complain till the pain becomes unbearable.

“They do not have any family and face social exclusion so no one even bothers to take them to the hospital. They themselves shy away from conventional methods of getting treatment. Even in the hospitals they are not treated properly because usually the hospitals ask for an attendant in case of admissions,” said Kumar.

According to the survey by Kumar, there are about 67,000 homeless in Delhi out of which more than 33 percent are staying at the same spot for more than 11 years. He, however, adds that there is an organised way of responding to the needs of the homeless wherein, state appointed NGOs are taking charge of the shelters and the food. But monitoring of the system is not adequate.

Policy for the medical needs of the homeless are not covered under any health systems or programmes. Dr Kumar with his team has proposed a health plan for the homeless and given a draft of the same to the Delhi government but no response has come from the authorities, he said.

“The government has not given us anything in writing about the plan. We have given the draft to the court for consideration,” said Kumar.

Some of the ideas proposed in the plan include training people in basic healthcare needs who will be called link workers. These 200 link workers should reach out to the homeless to help them prevent illnesses. Four vehicles for emergency rescue will be deployed and six units across the city will be compiling information on the homeless who are ill. The plan would need a budget of Rs 1.6 crore per year.
 

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