Published: 21st April 2005
Leading Christian human rights campaigner Dr Kiran Martin has called on governments throughout the developing world to replicate the success of the Asha Project in the slum areas of Delhi by enforcing a mass transfer of the legal ownership of the slum landholdings in major conurbations throughout the world to the women who live there.
Delivering the 2005 Rendle Short Lecture, under the title Transforming Communities, at the Christian Medical Fellowship’s annual conference, Dr Martin will say that the most effective way of empowering women to bring about substantive improvements in conditions in slum areas is to give them the land on which they live. She will show how her recent pilot project in Delhi, carried out in partnership with the Indian authorities, has achieved precisely this.
Dr Martin started her practice to the poorest of Delhi’s poor with a stethoscope and a desk under a tree in 1991.
Ten years later Asha, under Dr Martin's leadership and vision, had grown to a team of 70 healthcare professionals and has helped transform the lives of 200,000 of Delhi's slum dwellers. Now, child mortality has fallen 80% and there is 95% immunisation, almost full employment and minimal malnutrition or TB. Pregnant women receive antenatal care of almost UK standards (including ultrasound). Asha now works in 45 slum colonies around the city, engaging with approximately 10% of the city's 3 million slum dwellers.
The Asha model is the leading best-practice model for slum development all over the world. The slum residents are proud owners of their own homes. They enjoy good health, have plenty of clean drinking water and individual toilets, and the children play happily on the clean paved streets. Most children go to school, and many go on to universities, once a distant dream. The women are confident, full of self-esteem and their associations independently look after the affairs of these transformed colonies.
The morbidity and mortality statistics speak for themselves. The neonatal mortality rate in Asha project areas is 20/1000 live births (India countrywide - 50/1000), the infant mortality rate is 25/1000 live births (Delhi slums - 100/1000, India countrywide - 67/1000) and the under-5 mortality rate is 47.2/1000 children aged 1-4 years (Delhi slums 142/1000, India countrywide 93/1000). There has been no maternal death in all Asha project areas in the last 4 years. Childhood deaths due to lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and vaccine preventable diseases are no longer seen. The birth rate has fallen to 18/1000 population and the average family size is 2.8.
Dr Martin's model of onsite slum development has been highly acclaimed all over the world, pioneering a unique working together of NGO, the government and the slum communities, each with its distinct role. It works through effective partnership, through masterly prioritisation of health needs and through empowering previously illiterate local volunteers to do the work themselves. This exceptional model has paved the way for Delhi's Slum Housing Policy, taken as a prototype for India's National Slum Policy and has been replicated in many parts of the world. It has also been recognized and highly validated by the US Congress and Parliaments of the UK, Australia and New Zealand. These political leaders have recognised that the principles of the Asha model are applicable to finding solutions to the enormous problems of poverty in the cities in developed countries as well.
This revolutionary healthcare model developed by Dr. Martin is unique in that it has a holistic, multisectoral, integrated approach and brings about permanent and sustainable transformations in the health of urban poor communities. Its replicability and transferability has already been established in many slums across the city of Delhi with remarkable success and has the potential to be replicated in urban poor communities worldwide.
Dr Martin commented: 'Far too often, governments and commentators simply wring their hands in despair at the scale of the problem rather than taking the simple, practical steps that will bring about long term, powerful, permanent change. Involving women is the key to Asha’s success – but even determined, motivated women cannot achieve all they would want if they do not have legal title to the land they live on.
'I therefore call on governments all around the world to wake up to the real opportunities and benefits this simple step would confer on places where, all too often, all hope of a decent lifestyle for millions has been abandoned. To them I say: ‘Give women the land and we will finish the job!’'
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.