UNLOCKED Blog 11: The Blind Spot

30 Apr 2015

How many stairs do you climb on the way to your class or office every day? What color was the last traffic light you passed? What was the first animal you saw today? How many coins do you have in your wallet?

We all have the tendency to pay less attention to several things in our daily lives. I leave many unattended with very little effort and it doesn’t affect me all that much. However, paying attention to a few of these many things could make a huge difference in our perspectives. This scenario can be related to the blind spot (a natural malfunction in the human body).

The blind spot is a small portion of the visual cortex, in which there are no photoreceptors. When light falls on this surface, the image is not processed to the brain, leaving the object/image not seen by us, despite our sharp visual skills.

We all know about the ethnic war our country faced for 3 decades, and the measures being taken for reconciliation. We all know how hard Sri Lanka is toiling to build the nation with peace and integrity. We also know that as the youth of Sri Lanka, we are moving forward towards democracy through sustainable development. In this cross-wired rapid development, I feel that we are being ignorant to many micro issues, which are threats to the sustainability we are aiming for.

One of the main issues that I feel is not focused on is the reach of our health care service. I am proud to say that Sri Lanka is one of the best health care providers in South Asia; yet, we have forgotten the locals that don’t receive the benefits of this advanced and effective system. As the civil war ended people were resettled in north and east and were provided with reconciliation funds and services to re-establish their lost lifestyles. However, were they given adequate and appropriate health care support? Were the individuals and families followed up by health care providers to deal with the injuries and disorders caused by the war? Did reconciliation include a health care fund? Do youth and adults alike know about the health care services that are available to them? Are youth (the leaders of tomorrow) being taught about the epidemiology?

The Sri Lanka National Human Development Report 2014 on Youth and Development: Towards a more inclusive future (NHDR) states that around 80 percent of respondents to the National Youth Survey 2013 (NYS) have a fair idea about the general health services. Yet, 15 percent of youth were unaware of the health services that are available. They would rather ignore that an issue exists than address it, as many young adults haven’t been informed about the pros and cons of health care and treatment. As the NHDR has suggested, youth awareness ought to be prioritized to ensure a healthy future.

As we all know, people have survived tragic events during the war, such as shell attacks and the mines. They have been traumatized by the losses war forced on them. Physical and psychological suffering are common results of any disaster. And I’m quite sure our health care workers did their best during the crisis situation. There are survivors of shell and mine attacks with amputated limbs replaced by prosthetics, and on the other hand, there are still individuals who have shrapnel in their bodies. The more minute the piece of shrapnel is, the more challenging it has been for the doctors to remove them with limited equipment during war. And what happens to these survivors now? The metal pieces in their bodies heat up during the day, making the individuals too uncomfortable to perform a job outside the house. Many young adults are victims of such physical injuries and disabilities as a result of the war. In effect, their disabilities are preventing them from becoming empowered and reaching their potential.

Why haven’t they removed such shrapnel post-war?

 a) They are scared of being disabled

 b) Hospitals’ demand for complex scans and operations that cost the individuals a fortune

c) Travelling to major cities, where the national hospitals have well-equipped sectors for scanning and treatment, has costs associated with it.

In addition, there are several individuals who suffer from non-communicable diseases, as a result of the trauma and severity of war. Ulcers, cancer, calcium deficiencies, neurotic ailments, cardiac disorders, and respiratory ailments are many of the physiological effects of war on individuals.

Although we have a well-established health care system, the maximum efficiency of the service is not reached when the beneficiaries exclude the families and youth of the rural areas. The luxury of enjoying our nation’s renowned and reputed health care system should be accessible to rural villages. Why not have a mobile medical check-up in every village? Why not have a system that doesn’t leave anyone behind?

The health care discrepancy is not only seen in the north and east, but also in the rural areas of central and south of Sri Lanka. Reaching out to the youth of Sri Lanka is a mission to be achieved by the health care providers, in order to fully realize development within the country.

When a civil war ends after 30 years, reconciliation often focuses on social and economic factors, leaving the health of individuals unnoticed. How can a country develop when its growing economy is half spent on the health of its country’s citizens? How will a country survive if half of the individuals face very poor access to health care?

It is time to shed some light on our established health system, and find modes to provide health care to Sri Lankans who are victims of the blind spot. This can only be achieved if we reach out to youth, and provide them with the knowledge and skills required to build up their communities.

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