Tata Trusts, along with the Odisha gov­ern­ment, is un­der­tak­ing a mas­sive anti-malaria project in 625 vil­lages

India Today - - STATES - By M.G. Arun

In per­haps the big­gest pri­vate-pub­lic ini­tia­tive against malaria, Tata Trusts volunteers and the state’s com­mu­nity health work­ers or­gan­ise screen­ing camps, go around ex­plain­ing the use of in­sec­ti­cide-sprayed mos­quito nets, bury mos­quito-breed­ing ditches and dis­trib­ute medicine kits in 625 vil­lages of Odisha’s Raya­gada, Kand­hamal, Kala­handi and Ga­jap­athi dis­tricts.

“The hu­man suf­fer­ing from dis­ease and death is over­whelm­ing,” says Jay­eeta Chowdhury, se­nior pro­gramme of­fi­cer (health) at Tata Trusts, who over­sees the drive that cov­ers 150,000 tribal peo­ple. A base­line sur­vey Tata Trusts con­ducted in 2010 in cer­tain blocks of th­ese dis­tricts showed most house­holds re­port­ing an in­ci­dence of the dis­ease and/ or death. The slow-flow­ing and peren­nial streams in th­ese for­est lands, the paddy fields and the ditches are per­fect breed­ing grounds for the anophe­les f lu­vi­atilis mos­quito, a car­rier of plas­mod­ium fal­ci­parum, the dead­li­est of malaria par­a­sites. Char­ac­terised by fever, headache and chills, the dis­ease, if un­treated, can pro­ceed to se­vere ill­ness, and can be fa­tal. Tra­di­tional treat­ments of tribal peo­ple us­ing medic­i­nal plants have proved in­ad­e­quate.

The mass screen­ings once a year be­fore the mon­soon (a pre-win­ter screen­ing too is planned from this year) help iden­tify those who are liv­ing with the par­a­site but have no fever. Spe­cial at­ten­tion is given to chil­dren un­der five and preg­nant women. In the past three months alone, 30,000 peo­ple have been screened. Fur­ther health check-ups are done by ac­cred­ited so­cial health ac­tivists through the year.

Al­ready, the num­ber of deaths from fever has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly, while in­ci­dence of malaria in chil­dren below five has re­duced by as much as 90 per cent in some ar­eas. The tar­get is to cover eight mil­lion vil­lagers by the end of 2018.

The big­gest chal­lenge is sur­veil­lance or map­ping the dis­ease burden in vil­lages that are cut off, es­pe­cially dur­ing the mon­soons. For this, Tata Trusts is cre­at­ing a data­base of vil­lagers’ health, us­ing volunteers with hand­held de­vices, and syn­chro­nis­ing the in­for­ma­tion with the state’s health data­base. It has teamed up with Med­prime, a start-up in­cu­bated at IIT-Bom­bay, which cre­ated an app that can trans­mit blood sam­ple data to tech­ni­cians in cities. A third ini­tia­tive in­volves the set­ting up of the Tata In­sti­tute of Ge­net­ics and So­ci­ety at the Univer­sity of California, San Diego, through a $70 mil­lion fund­ing last year for re­search on breed­ing ge­net­i­cally al­tered mos­qui­toes that don’t spread malaria.

STING­ING MALARIA BACK Di­ag­nos­tic tests un­der way in a tribal com­mu­nity

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