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Kerala Gets Globally Recognised For Its Commitment To The Healthcare Of Its Citizens

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In May 2018, the viral outbreak of Nipah virus was reported from Kerala’s Kozhikode district. By June 1, there were 17 deaths, and 18 confirmed cases from Kerala’s Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. This created nationwide panic as well. But Kerala overcame this dangerous phase with a stride.

Recognition From World’s Premier Institute Of Virology

The Institute of Human Virology (IHV), U.S.A, decided to felicitate Government of Kerala for its swift action against the fatal viral outbreak. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Health Minister K.K.Shilaja were invited to the US for this award ceremony. Dr Robert C Gallo, co-founder of the institute and the famous virologist, who co-discovered HIV and developed the Elisa test kit, presented a memento to CM Vijayan at a function held at the IHV campus. There was a discussion between the CM, Dr Roberto Gallo and senior scientists on setting up a virology institute in Kerala. It was for the first time in the history of our nation that an Indian CM was honoured by the Baltimore IHV institute.

The Nipah virus is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe infection in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. NiV infection in humans has a range of clinical repercussions, from asymptomatic infection to an acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. NiV is also capable of causing diseases in pigs and other domestic animals. There is no vaccine for either humans or animals.

Occurrence Of Nipah Virus


Nipah Virus was first identified during an outbreak in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. In Bangladesh in 2004, residents became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented, including in a hospital setting in India. The first outbreak of this deadly virus in India was reported way back in 2001, in Siliguri district of West Bengal.

Timely Action Of The State Government

Under the 2005 International Health Regulations of WHO, India is obligated to report to the organisation about any public health risk related to the outbreak of diseases. Following steps were taken by the state government:

  1. Government of Kerala responded immediately to this situation by seeking support from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Government of India and the Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR), Karnataka.
  2. Isolating patients, using masks and using decontaminants were instructions given on a large scale.
  3. On a priority basis, health officials were asked to visit households with specific instructions to avoid intake of fruits.
  4. The government took extensive measures to make sure that the virus didn’t spread further.
  5. By the time 16 death cases were registered, the state managed to call for mass awareness campaigns.
  6. Schools and colleges were asked to remain closed till June 11, 2018.

According to the Health Minister of Kerala, K.K. Shailaja Teacher, special control rooms are being set up in Kozhikode as a preparation for a possible second outbreak. Vulnerable people who may have been exposed to individuals affected by the virus are being put under watch. If they show any symptoms of the virus, they’ll be treated immediately.

Politics With A Difference

India has a poor record of outbreak investigations. Since 1978, about 10,000 deaths have been recorded in UP due to encephalitis. In 2018, till the month of June, UP’s BRD medical college has witnessed 681 deaths of infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) among which 79 were cases of encephalitis. On the other hand, detecting the viral outbreak in the very second case of Kozhikode district was something new and fast. Lini Puthussery, a 28-year-old nurse, succumbed to death while treating patients infected with Nipah virus. In her last message to her husband, she wrote- “I don’t think I will be able to see you again. Sorry. Please raise our children well.” This incident speaks volumes about the courage, commitment and dedication of healthcare officials in Kerala. The health officials and doctors were honoured by the Health Minister for putting up a strong fight against a deadly viral outbreak.

Even the 2018 report of Niti Aayog clearly mentioned Kerala as the best state in terms of healthcare. In 2017, Kerala became the first state in India to provide free healthcare insurance to 31 lakh migrant workers who had come to Kerala to earn their livelihood.

Aiming at a new health policy, the government is determined to reduce the expenditure of people on healthcare. They want to make it more affordable, curbing unnecessary laboratory tests and clinical procedures by having standard treatment guidelines (which would require convincing all medical professionals as well). These steps are possible only when the state invests in the infrastructure of public healthcare by providing quality treatment which is affordable for everyone. I feel that a government’s willpower and dedication can combat any deadly outbreak. In this aspect, pro-people politics and policies of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala have set an example for all states of India including the Government of India.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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