Tata Trusts’ Malaria Eradication Program in Odisha Moves a Step Ahead

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In the final leg of first year, innovative implementation backed with technology, communication and research led program covered 1.2 lakhs population

India CSR News Network

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha accounts for about 38% of malaria cases and 28% malaria deaths to India’s malaria burden (2015). Currently, the estimated population at high risk for malaria is 24 million (50% of total population).

Malaria affects nearly 22 districts out of 30. Plasmodium falciparum is the predominant species mostly seen in forest fringed areas in southern districts and few northern Odisha districts. Districts in the southern part of Odisha is affected by malaria the most where annual parasite index (API) is more than 10.

The collaboration between Tata Trusts and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Odisha, to enable the state to eliminate malaria by deploying human resources from local communities, building capacities of this army, integrating technological innovation and generating evidence through research, is now in its final leg of first year. The joint initiative has achieved significant milestones, including considerably strengthening the government’s response to curbing the growing number of malaria cases across southern Odisha.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in March 2016, with the objective of eliminating malaria, and in turn improving the lives of people in the state’s malaria-stricken districts, the Trusts reached-out to 1.2 lakh population in 625 villages in blocks of three districts of Kalahandi, Rayagada and Kandhamal in Southern Odisha. Being a high malaria endemic region, the programme in the southern districts in Odisha initiated mass screenings of populations in these villages pre-monsoon to reduce parasite density in the entire population.

Notably afebrile caseload of malaria has been found to be high in this region, which is known to retard growth in children, adding burden burden of malnutrition.  So far 11085 persons including children have been screened and those found positive have been treated. More will be screened in the coming weeks.

The collaboration helped promote partnership driven solutions by imbibing technology for improving surveillance and monitoring, agile diagnosis and prompt treatment, vector control, creative communication package and most importantly building capacities and ownership of local citizens. The initiative focuses on research on malarial sciences and co-infections.

Highlighting the collaboration’s key achievements in the first year of its operation, H S D Srinivas, Head of Health, Tata Trusts, said, “In the first year of operations, we have been able to cover 1.2 lakh population in 625 villages. To seal the success of the program we recruited the entire project management unit and trained them for the initiative. We are using technology for malaria related information management and experimenting newer diagnostics. The Trusts also developed the entire communication package and seeking support from government in building a mass campaign in the state. With the completion of the baseline study in March, we will begin the screening of each villager for malaria in April.”

Tata Trusts believe technology is a game changer and this has immense potential in fighting malaria. Hence recognizing weak areas like lack of good quality data, efforts are being made to malaria specific information system at community and block level which will empower frontline health cadres to collect data on tabs and report the same to administration through software platform and also educate the communities on the status of their health. It is envisaged that the data will be synched into government database. This will change the face of malaria surveillance and quality of data. Trusts are also supporting the government in bringing affordable and high quality diagnostic tool which can fast track detection at door steps with high sensitivity without hassle of delay and erroneous report.

Emphasizing on empowering communities with knowledge and skills, Trusts in partnership with state Vector Borne Disease Control Program, have focused on building capacities of 408 village health volunteers and ASHAs, 49 cluster coordinators and 7 block and district coordinators.

The communication campaign has been developed after research through workshops and community feedback, which have helped generate insights to create effective key messaging around improving understanding and inspiring behavior change among vulnerable populations on the subject of malaria and its menace.

The Trusts has produced a communication package on the issue by employing local talent and incorporating the understanding of local languages, culture and flavor, to reach-out to the target audience in these southern districts and the whole state, as well.

For last 10 years the Tata Trusts have partnered with different organizations in the Odisha for multi-sectoral development in southern region in Odisha. For the malaria control program specifically, Trusts have partnership with resource organization such as Christian Hospital Bissamcuttack and other agenices such as DAPTA, FARR, Swasthya Swaraj and OVHA.

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