Often, villages in conflict areas are unable to access basic healthcare facilities due to severe problems with supply. Meet a brave soul who’s overcome personal danger to ensure that a village in Jharkhand’s Naxalite area gets access to adequate healthcare.
Sahibganj district, in Jharkhand, has a population of little over 1.1 million people. Making up that million are roughly 7,000 residents of Borio, a small village 30 kms. away from the district headquarters.
Being a small village, one would not expect to find many amenities there. However, the village boasts of a Public Health Centre (PHC) and a Facility Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (FICTC) that is providing Antenatal Care (ANC) and immunisation to mothers and children.
This is thanks to the determined efforts of Manoj, a Plan India staff member working on Project Ahana.
Project Ahana, implemented with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and supported by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), focuses on increasing the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) service uptake among women in 218 of the most marginalised communities across nine states in India. The project was rolled out in the district in January 2016. At the time, Manoj was employed as an Outreach Worker.
Prior to his joining, Borio only had one PHC, with two Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). The same facility was also the designated FICTC, but was non-functional. Till May 2016, not a single Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND) had been organised. One of the main reasons for the lack of facilities was the presence of Naxalites, who did not allow outsiders in the area without their permission.
Women, in particular had to bear the brunt of this unrest, with no access to healthcare.
Manoj took it upon himself to make sure Borio was able to provide health facilities for pregnant women, mothers, and children. He immediately got to work, building a strong relationship with the local Sahiya and Sahiya Sathis (a community health volunteer under the National Health Mission. There is one Sahiya for every 700-1,000 people. 15-20 Sahiyas are supervised by a Sahiya Sathi). With their help, he was introduced to the Naxal leader, whose trust he was able to win over time.
Manoj urged for help in gathering pregnant women and children at a certain point so that he could arrange for an ANM to provide ANC and immunisation. Due to security concerns and poor road connectivity, the ANMs were not willing to visit the area.
Again, Manoj led the way and personally accompanied them to Borio, even transporting the vaccine carrier himself.
His efforts were not in vain. Since May 2016, 11 VHNDs have been organised in the village. HIV screening has also been conducted as part of the ANC package. Till date, more than 500 women have been screened for HIV, and 21 Whole Blood Finger Prick Test (WBFPT) have been conducted. Additionally, the PHC, which also functions as the FICTC, has become fully operational.
Manoj’s hard work will have a lasting impact on the current and future population of Borio village. His grit has laid the foundations for a generation free of HIV and AIDS, and we at Plan India could not be prouder of him.