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As Health Resources Get Exhausted Due To COVID-19, How To Stay Safe From Malaria

With monsoon season around the corner, public health challenges for India are increasing. This time around, the problem will be two-fold: COVID-19, plus vector-borne diseases — particularly malaria, which follows a pattern of uptick in the monsoon season due to stagnant water all around, which makes for a habitable environment for breeding of mosquitoes that carry infection.

Several domestic and peri-domestic environmental factors, for example collection of open water, inappropriate water storage practices and inadequate sanitation promote breeding of disease-spreading mosquitoes.

Managing COVID-19 is a mammoth of a task, having absorbed most of our healthcare facilities. The unprecedented scenario has strained medical professionals, frontline workers, sanitation workers and civil society members. These members engage rigorously before the onset of monsoon season and continue throughout the season to reduce the breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes and create public awareness on preventing the disease.

The WHO and other health experts and organisations have raised concerns anticipating an increase in cases of malaria (in comparison to previous years) due to the health workforce’s capacity currently being used for COVID-19. Therefore, the public needs to ensure due safety and hygiene on their part to keep the numbers of malaria cases in check. In this regard, below are some essential tips and advises for maintaining domestic cleanliness and ensuring prevention in this malaria season:

It is common knowledge that mosquito bites cause malaria. Our precautionary measures from malaria revolve around:

mother and baby sleeping under mosquito net

Reducing The Presence Of Mosquitoes Around Our Houses And Localities

1. Mosquitoes breed in both dirty and clean stagnant water. The appearance of such water puddles increases in urban and semi-urban areas, in the streets and outside people’s houses due to monsoon rains. It’s essential to either cover or regularly empty all artificial containers, domestic wells, overhead water tanks, and spaces with cavities such as roof gutters and freshwater pools. This water collection provides a favourable breeding ground for mosquitoes in residential areas, which later wreak menace on the citizens.

2. Engaging with representatives of urban local bodies and housing societies to ensure the implementation of urban by-laws at construction sites and nearby temporary human settlements is also very important.

3. In rural areas with a higher risk of malaria transmission and without insecticidal nets, motivating spray workers to spray only indoors during indoor residual spraying campaigns is crucial to prevent the spread of malaria.

Further Preventing Bites Of Mosquitoes Left In Our Environment After The Required Measures

1. People in areas known to have a higher risk of malaria should sleep under bed nets to prevent mosquito bites at night. In high-risk areas, where governments have already supplied long-lasting insecticidal nets, people should sleep under those instead of plain bed nets.

2. Wear full-sleeved clothes when going outdoors to workplaces and schools.

3. Use mosquito repellents (creams, patches and sprays) before going outside during evenings and repellent sprays, coils and vaporising mats while staying indoors.

Additional Recommendations To Prevent Malaria

  • One of the most common symptoms of malaria is fever, with or without chills.
  • It is crucial to not underestimate any kind of fever and immediately (within 24 hours of the onset of fever) approach a nearby ASHA centre, nearest public health clinic, or a government hospital for guidance and treatment.
  • Seek treatment only from qualified medical professionals, and government health workers and midwives. Never seek treatment from informal practitioners or quacks.

At the time of this pandemic, as the caseload of COVID-19 patients severely strains our government healthcare workers, we as citizens should do our part of keeping public health in check.

By following these simple tips, we can do our part in keeping a check on malaria in our homes, localities and cities. Preventing and ultimately eliminating malaria is a massive task that can only be accomplished by citizens and governments working collaboratively.

As the spirit of this year’s World Malaria Day highlights, Zero Malaria Starts with Me.

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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