Mumbai: As per the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Odisha accounts for about 38% of India’s malaria burden and 28% of its malaria deaths (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 in Odisha.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Tata Trusts and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Odisha, in March 2016 seeks to eliminate malaria, and improve the lives of people in the state’s malaria-stricken districts. As part of this MoU, Tata Trusts reached-out to a population of 1.2 lakh in 625 villages in the three districts of Kalahandi, Rayagada and Kandhamal in Southern Odisha. Being a malaria endemic region, mass screenings were organized pre-monsoon to reduce parasite density. The afebrile caseload of malaria, which has been found to be high in this region, is known to retard growth in children, adding further to the burden of malnutrition. So far over 11,000 people including children have been screened and treated.
This collaboration, in its first year, is deploying human resources from local communities, building their capacities, integrating technological innovation and generating evidence through research. The joint initiative has achieved significant milestones, in considerably strengthening the government’s response to curbing the growing number of malaria cases across southern Odisha. Tata Trusts is using technology for malaria-related information management and experimenting with newer diagnostics by supporting the government in introducing affordable and high quality diagnostic tools which can fast track detection with increased sensitivity, eliminating delays and erroneous results.
Says Mr. H S D Srinivas, Head – Health, Tata Trusts, “Tata Trusts believes in the game changing power of technology in fighting malaria. Recognizing weak areas like the lack of good quality data, efforts are being made to create malaria-specific information systems at a community and block level. These will empower frontline health cadres to collect information on tablets and report the same to the administration through a software platform while educating the communities on the status of their health. It is envisaged that the data will be synched into government database.”
Tata Trusts has also strengthened its efforts by developing a complete communications package to raise awareness and seeks support from the government to ensure its reach across the state. The communication campaign has been developed using research from workshops and community feedback. This has helped generate insights to create effective key messaging around improving understanding and inspiring behavior change among vulnerable populations to get them to take protective measures and complete the full course of medication. Tata Trusts has employed local talent and has incorporated use and understanding of local languages, culture and flavour in the communications campaign for a better reach amongst the target audience in Odisha’s southern districts and the state as a whole.
Over the last 10 years, Tata Trusts has partnered with different organisations in Odisha for multi-sectoral development in the southern region. For the malaria control programme specifically, Tata Trusts has partnerships with resource organization such as Christian Hospital Bissamcuttack and agencies such as DAPTA, FARR, Swasthya Swaraj and OVHA.