Their daughter Kajal was only three months old when she died of malnutrition.
Manoj Ravidas and Pratima Devi work as ragpickers in a slum community in Bhowapur on the outskirts of Delhi. Living in such appalling conditions, on a garbage dump, it’s hardly surprising that some children and babies simply don’t survive.
There are no proper toilets or sanitation – open defecation is the norm. People’s homes sit next to, and are mostly built out of, great piles of rubbish, discarded junk of every sort imaginable.
It is also difficult for people in the community – who mostly come from migrant families from the poorest parts of India – to access basic health and nutrition services for themselves and their children, including immunisations and neonatal and postnatal care. The nearest hospital is 3km away, although weekly clinics are sometimes run closer by.
Manju Devi, Manoj and Pratima’s neighbour, adds: ‘We don’t have water here either. We have to walk one hour there and back to get water – we go early morning or in the evening. There is always a fight for water.
‘Life has become hell here.’
Since Kajal died, Manoj, 30, and Pratima, 25, have had another daughter, Kareena, who is now two months old. Pratima cradles her new baby with the utmost care, frightened perhaps that she too might not make it in this harsh environment.
But for Kareena, the long-term outlook is bleak. With their parents exploited and barely able to get enough food to survive, many children here become ragpickers like their parents to bring in money for the family.
Education is a low priority, but without school, children like Kareena will never break the cycle of poverty and deprivation and face a lifetime in the slums.
It is essential they receive a basic education and give themselves the best chance for their future.
That’s why Phia Foundation is helping provide children in the Bhowapur slums with an education to help lift them out of desperate squalor and deprivation.
Through our Jugnu project, we aim to reach hundreds of children, providing them with ‘bridge’ schooling and enrolling them into formal schools.