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India: Fighting malaria in rural Orissa

Apr 26, 2011

DFID India and Orissa government fight malaria in rural Orissa through trained community health workers who raise awareness against the disease, provide early diagnosis and distribute mosquito nets to the poor.



Milu Jani lives in Labangi, a small village in a remote area of Western Orissa – one of the poorest states in India. The village is around three hours from the nearest district town of Angul and part of the journey needs to be done on foot. There is no health centre, no electricity and no school in the village. Milu works as a forest guard at the Satakosia wildlife reserve, earning a mere 90 rupees (£1.20) a day.

Like most villagers, Milu has lost a loved one to malaria. His eyes tear up as he recalls his father's death last winter. Milu's father fell ill with a high fever and was tragically diagnosed with malaria only a day before his death, leaving no time for proper treatment. Malaria can be treated effectively with drugs, but treatment is most effective when administered within 24 hours of the onset of fever.

Milu knew mosquito bites can cause malaria but didn't know the deadly mosquitos were breeding in the water pools around the village. After his father passed away, Milu met a local health worker who explained the risks of malaria and how to prevent his family from becoming ill with this deadly disease.

Getting healthcare to rural communities

The DFID supported state health programme in Orissa trains health workers to help raise awareness of malaria prevention and treatment among vulnerable tribal communities like Milu's. Health workers like Suhasini Behera in Milu's village are trained in the use of diagnostic tests and how to administer appropriate medicines. They also distribute bednets and promote the proper use of nets to prevent malaria.

"It was not easy to convince people to use bed nets," Suhasini says. "People feared the nets were poisonous as there had been reports of rashes and itching from the insecticide" – misconceptions that she sought to dispel while visiting their homes.

By working with the community to raise awareness of malaria, Suhasini and her fellow health workers help to prevent people from contracting malaria and help the villagers to understand how to access treatment.

Bednets - a simple prevention tool

DFID's support to the Orissa state health programme has helped Milu and his family purchase bednets that will prevent them from contracting malaria in the future. By subsidising the cost of the nets, DFID enables poor families like Milu's to purchase two bednets for only 20 rupees (25p). The nets are treated with insecticide and last up to five years.

Milu's mother is content with her new net. "I always had disturbed sleep due to the mosquitoes. This new net has brought me a lot of comfort and I also use it for my afternoon nap".

Milu is equally satisfied. "Malaria was a huge problem in our area. Now everyone in the village is using a net. I have lost my father but now I can keep my family safe from malaria".

DFID India has committed £100 million over 2007-12 to Orissa's state health programme to tackle malaria, among other health and nutrition initiatives. The programme increases efforts to prevent malaria, improve diagnosis and provide access to treatment for pregnant women and tribal children, who are most vulnerable to the disease.

Source : DFID
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