By Priyanka Chaturvedi
RAIPUR, CHATTISGARH, 11 May 2010 – Padma is from Bhairamgarh block of Bijapur district in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. She is six months pregnant. The state is one of the top malaria endemic states in India with 100,000 malaria cases reported every year. Malaria is believed to be the second largest cause of maternal deaths in the state.
Sixty per cent of malarial cases are reported from the Naxal affected tribal belt of Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts. Providing treatment to the people living in these areas remains a challenge.
Luckily for Padma, she met the local Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) during the local Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND). The ANM gave her free insecticide-treated bednets (ITN) and advised her to use the bed net regularly for her safety as well as that of her child.
Accustomed to sleeping out in the open in her courtyard, Padma felt uncomfortable using the bednet at first. However, she kept her word to the ANM and continually slept under the bednets.
The bednet worked well and Padma was able to successfully ward off the disease. However Padma’s sister-in-law who continued to sleep out in the open was later diagnosed with malaria.
“These bed nets have saved my life as well of my child. I will go from door to door and ask every pregnant woman in my village to sleep under the bed-nets," says Padma.
Renewed strategy with focus on prevention
The State Government along with the support of UNICEF is promoting the use of Insecticide-treated bednets among pregnant women in the state to help reduce the number of maternal deaths caused by malaria.
“Children under the age of five and pregnant women are particularly at a high risk from malaria. Our strategy is aimed at protecting the vulnerable groups from getting infected,” says UNICEF Health Officer, Dr Pravin Khobragade.
In the last two years, UNICEF, through the State Health Department, has made bednets available to more than 140,000 pregnant mothers in five districts of Chhattisgarh.
The chemical treatment of regular bednets is also carried out during the SSM. The treatment lasts for six months and needs to be repeated periodically.
The health workers who carry out the distribution are instructed to sensitise the families about the threat of malaria and explain how the use of the bednets can help them to ward off the threat of this disease.
While the focus of the initiative continues to be prevention, in the long term the fight against malaria, can only be successful through empowering communities with knowledge of prevention