BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government has decided to go back to the traditional village messengers to drum home the message to arrest the spread of malaria in tribal districts of the state. As part of its innovative measure, the Health Department has asked districts to use services of the local drum-beaters—“dakua” in local parlance—to sensitise the people.
Beginning June, which marks the onset of transmission season for vector-borne diseases, the drum-beaters will start using their traditional skills to send across awareness capsules in the villages. Each “dakua” will beat drums for an hour every week for which it will be paid a remuneration of Rs 50.
The Gram Kalyan Samiti (GKS) has been asked to identify the drummers and use their services. According to Deputy Director, Health Services (National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme) Dr Madan Mohan Pradhan, the districts have been asked to identify the vulnerable pockets where the drum beaters can operate all through the transmission season.
The messages will be in tribal dialect, depending upon the district and its indigenous inhabitants. The “dakuas” will be trained by the district health office. At least 30 “dakuas” will be roped in by each district.
Malaria, one of the major public health disorder in the state, has a high incidence during the period June to October.
The annual parasite incidence (API) of 10 and more is recorded in the tribal districts of south and western Odisha including Malkangiri, Rayagada, Koraput, Gajapati, Nabarangpur, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Keonjhar, Nuapada and Deogarh.
The reason behind employing the services of the traditional drum beaters is most of the districts are highly forested in nature and hilly where access of the Health Department is minimal. In fact, these districts contribute more than 80 per cent of malaria cases and 64 per cent deaths in the state.
Besides, employing the “dakuas”, the Health Department is also trying to influence the “disari” (priests as well as quacks) who have sway over the locals and dish out treatment. Since they have negative opinion about the modern drug system, the Department is trying to sensitise and restrain them.
An analysis released by the Health Department on the occasion of World Malaria Day revealed that of 98 deaths out of 100 in 2011, 59 were adults and 41 were children. At least 62 per cent deaths were contributed by ten high endemic districts where illiteracy and BPL numbers are high.
Over the last year, however, the malaria incidence in districts such as Kandhamal, Kalahandi and Koraput dropped by 60 per cent whereas in Sundargarh and Rayagada and Sundargarh, it fell by 45 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.
In 2002, with 4.7 lakh cases of malaria, Odisha had the dubious distinction of reporting the highest number of malaria deaths at 465. The State contributed 25 percent of the total cases and 45 per cent of deaths in India.
However, the Government claims its malaria control programme has improved over the last decade due to which last year, the fatalities dropped to 100 while the malaria cases declined to 3 lakh.