The Nobel prize winning organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders recently launched an awareness campaign titled ‘Who Cares?’. Veteran actor Farooq Sheikh and director Anurag Kashyap interviewed several MSF employees in order to enlighten the audience about those health issues which have not gained much attention from the media, and about which, awareness is low.
Praising MSF’s Kala-azar intervention project in Bihar, Kashyap remarked that though his village near Sasaram in Bihar is not too far from Vaishali, where MSF’s intervention programme is based, he was not aware of the disease at all. Since several MSF programmes in India deal with the treatment of TB, Kahsyap felt it appropriate to recount his own close encounter with the disease. “Recently, my mother survived TB in her hips. It took eight months for it to be diagnosed as TB. Most of us labour under the myth that TB is associated with the lungs, but I saw upfront that TB can strike one anywhere,” he said.
Praising MSF’s model of financing via individual donors, Farooq Sheikh requested audience members to contribute towards MSF’s efforts. “At the risk of earning the ire of my own film fraternity, I will say this — you can sacrifice at least one film outing in a month. God alone knows what they put in the popcorn they serve that it costs Rs 100. Leave that and donate to MSF,” he said.
Later in a Q and A with the audience, the first question was whether like the Red Cross in Chattisgarh, had MSF also been asked to leave their operations in Bijapur, Chattisgarh? Swapan Kachop, deputy head of mission at MSF, replied in the negative, stating that they had received no official communication from the Chattisgarh government. Stepping in to the discussion, Kashyap pointed out that the media should take some responsibility and be critical when humanitarian organisations are asked to leave conflict zones. A young girl from the audience stood up to state that she had suffered from TB and it had taken three months for it to be diagnosed. She asked what hope was there for the poor who faced the same disease? Kachop replied that the problem in India is not the availability of diagnosis, but the quality of diagnosis. He also said that wherever possible, they work with the government. “In Nagaland, Chhattisgarh and Kashmir, we use the district hospitals. Ultimately there is no substitute for a solid, public health care system,” he argued. When asked about the role of cinema is raising awareness about health issues, Sheikh commented that Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahaani was probably the last film that looked seriously at the issue of health. “Be a discerning filmgoer, for only then will we see good films being made,” he exhorted the audience.