Every year, India sees some major calamity-natural or man-inflicted-in the form of earthquakes, uprisings, terrorist activities and others. In the aftermath, it is doctors who play the most important role to rescue the victims. Amidst all the turmoil, it is common to see teams of doctors and health experts, working against all odds to bring some sense of order, some reprieve from the chaos. Doctors For You (DFY) is one such team.
DFY is an organization that aims to provide medical care and relief, especially to crisis stricken places. With its extraordinary work, be it during floods, riots and other emergencies, DFY has garnered praises and honors both within India and abroad. Its latest awards include the British Medical Journal Group Award for the ‘Best Medical Team in a Crisis Zone’ as well as the SAARC Award for ‘Outstanding contribution to humanitarian works in the aftermath of disasters.’
Dr Mridul Kumar Deka is the Program Manager and Assam Project Head of DFY. After doing his MBBS from Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati, Dr Deka went on to serve as a junior Resident Doctor in Tripura and Delhi and completed his Masters in Public Health from the National Center for Disease Control, New Delhi in 2012.
He says, “I have been associated with DFY as it gave me the perfect platform to actually implement my ideas as a public health professional. For this I would like to thank DFY’s President, Dr Ravikant Singh, for his guidance and support throughout my association with DFY and the amount of independence in managing projects.”
Dr. Deka tells us what DFY is doing in the troubled North-Eastern part of India which is no stranger to violent conflicts and tension.
“DFY has responded comprehensively to the ethnic clashes of 2012 in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) by providing medical response with a special focus on maternal and child health to all communities across three affected districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang. Following this, DFY has been working to build up a network of ASHA workers and community volunteers in areas prone to ethnic clashes. It has over 50 such volunteers in its network to provide real time feedback of ground situation in the event of any ethnic clashes and helps in determining DFY’s response to such a crisis. “
Doctors, medical students along with other people with similar interests majorly constitute DFA. It makes sure that all its members are ready to handle emergencies. Dr Deka reveals, “DFY also focuses on training and capacity of doctors and paramedics in the district level in Assam. DFY has conducted over 50 trainings in ‘Hospital Preparedness and Mass Casualty Management’ for doctors; ‘Mass Casualty Management’ for paramedics; ‘Public Health in Emergencies’ for different line departments and ‘Community Based Disaster Preparedness’ for community stakeholders and NGO’s. Recently, we have also been associated with the DICE foundation in Nagaland to study the long term health impacts of seepage of crude oil from abandoned oil rigs in Changpang area in Wokha district.”
Dr Deka admits that there are unique challenges working in Assam and its adjoining northeastern states. With varied communities, there is a great diversity in culture and ethnic structure which makes it essential for a complete understanding of each region, each group and accordingly address their problems .
The very geography creates a host of problems for the northeastern region. It is tough to gain accessibility itself to affected spots. Depending on where in North-East you are, right from landslides to deep mountain streams, slippery terrain after even a light shower-in Dr Deka’s words, “24/7 access is never sure!” Also, political tensions might cause a curfew anywhere for days on end. There is no public transport either in such times. Insecurity is rife for both patients and doctors; After all, how shall medical help reach on time?.
An interesting fact that showcases just how much the noble profession of medicine surpasses all man-made boundaries is that no doctor of DFY, of any gender,religion or creed ever faced hostility or prejudice from people even in strife ridden areas. Dr Deka asserts the fact that in such tragic times, all unites to help each other. “We even had field staff from Bodo and Muslim background who worked together as a team in all target camps under DFY and no one has faced any such problem.”
Now, with a new government forming, what is on DFY’s wish-list? Dr Deka is quick to reply, “North- Eastern states are, comparatively, well equipped to provide adequate health care services. However, increasing the manpower in health centers, frequent trainings and CME’s to keep the doctors and paramedics up to date with the latest standard treatment guidelines would greatly improve the health care delivery structure in the north eastern states.”
Well, we do not know when the blood shall cease to flow, when the fires would stop burning houses, when people shall stop fearing for their lives…but until that happens, organizations like Doctors For You continue to try and bring solace in mayhem.