Quite literally a hospital on wheels, the Lifeline Express has provided essential medical and healthcare services for millions in rural India for over 25 years. Running on India’s railway tracks, the flagship project of the Impact India Foundation employs some of the best specialist surgeons and support teams in the country on a voluntary basis to change lives for the better. The program was set into motion by Sir John Wilson on the 16th of July 1991 as the world’s first hospital train. It began with a modest three carriages which has since been upgraded to five with state of the art technology to assist the surgical team.
In India where there are fewer than 10 doctors for every 10,000 people, many have to travel hundreds of miles for the nearest hospital. The Lifeline Express presents a convenient solution during its 21-35 day stay in each rural area. Currently, its services are limited to the restoration of eyesight through cataract operations, correction of cleft palates and dental services. However this year, two more carriages are being donated by the Railways to address cancer detection and family planning. Furthermore, suggestions are being made for a blood bank so that major surgeries can also be added to its repertoire.
Its dream is encapsulated by a statement found on the Impact India Foundation which says “people should not, through neglect or ignorance, become disabled or crippled, and thus [be] robbed of health, productivity and joy, and that disabled persons especially in rural India should have access to medical services wherever they be.” The Lifeline Express also serves as inspiration for other nations with China now having four of its own trains, South Africa has two and Bangladesh and Cambodia have a river boat hospital each. Impact India Foundation Chairmen R.C. Sarin summed it up well when he said “When the train arrives for a camp, hundreds turn up with hope” and hope goes a long way in today’s world.