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In the Adivasi habitation of Kadaligada, residents no longer make 20 km journey to the health centre

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

15 December 2021

Residents of the Kadaligada village now have basic first aid in their village. Small cuts, burns, and bruises, that earlier required a 20 km ride to the nearest centre, can now be treated early in the village itself, lessening the distress.

Muskan Thakral explaining about the use of the first-aid kit to Nilanchan Jani and Manoj Jani.

Photograph by Narayan Sahu

For villagers in Ganjam district, reaching the nearest healthcare facility is a challenging task. The lack of proper roads and transport is a huge obstacle even for someone requiring basic medical advice. During my year-long engagement with Gram Vikas in 2020 as a fellow on the field, Muskan Thakral noticed the residents lived 15-20 kilometres away from a Primary Health Centre (PHC). They endured all the pain and discomfort until the break of dawn; the only time when it was easier to avail transport to a hospital.

In 2010, Gram Vikas reached Kadaligada to support its residents to build their own toilets and bathing rooms. The village received piped water supply in 2013, aiding nearly 21 households in backyard farming using the household wastewater. Under the Wadi Programme, in 2015, forty-five farmers developed cashew and mango plantations in acres of land of the same number.

The village of Kadaligada is 15 kms from the nearest Community Health Center, located in Tarasingi Panchayat in the Jagannath Prasad block. While other villages had a female health worker residing in the village itself, Kadaligada’s designated health worker lived 20 kms away. For the unwell, this meant that the female health worker could not attend to any of the ailing residents during a midnight emergency.

The dire situation of the Kadaligada residents meant the village committee was eager for any remedial solutions.  When Muskan reached out to them about having a community first aid box, they displayed interest and enthusiasm.

The committee arranged a meeting in the village the same week, where there was a unanimous decision of setting up a first-aid box with basic necessities. The box would include Dettol, bandage, gauze roll, cotton, scissors, painkillers and Paracetamol, essentials for healing burns, ORS and Band-aids. The residents further agreed to contribute a nominal amount for keeping the items in stock. A volunteer from the village was selected and tasked with the responsibility to preserve the box and train themselves for administering first aid during an emergency.

The task fell on the shoulders of forty-five year old Nilanchan Jani.  A farmer from the village, he had received First-Aid training from Hindu Swasthya Sevak/Sevika in Biswanath Mandir, College Chowk in Cuttack town two years ago. Having passed his 10th class matriculation exam, he volunteered to administer first aid in his village and keep the box under his supervision.

“Two years back, I went to Cuttack to learn about how to administer first aid. I like to help out people during emergencies. People also call me when they are sick or when they want me to accompany them during their visit to the health centre,” he says. “There is no health care facility close to our village nor a single medicine shop anywhere here. When a person in the village suffers from diarrhoea and vomiting, or has temperature or gets injured due to a fall, the person has to bear the pain till the next morning. It is difficult to arrange for a vehicle and take the sick 15 kms away to Tarasingi after nightfall. So I decided to learn first aid and went to Cuttack to receive training as it would help residents of our village. Therefore, having a first aid box will definitely go a long way for all of us here.”

He is one of the forty-five farmers from Kadaligada, who is also a member of the Prakruti Bandhu Farmers Producers Group. The group is part of the Gram Vikas’ ‘Smart Community’ project, setting their sights on the creation and knowledge-sharing of agricultural and market practices for commercial farmers. “As a stakeholder in the Farmer Producer Company (FPC), we are able to get real-time market prices over the phone,” Nilanchal says. He is also a beneficiary of the Wadi Programme, through which residents are given cashew saplings to grow on vacant land. Once the trees bear fruits, they sell them in the market and earn an income. Nilanchal earns ₹80-85,000 annually by selling cashews.

The Prakruti Bandhu Farmers’ Producer Company Ltd. is known for supporting farmers in marketing their produce, using technology interfaces for their skill development, and training them to employ better farming techniques. Gram Vikas oversees the implementation and outreach of the producer company in the Ganjam district.

To contribute towards setting up the first-aid box, the total number of thirty-six households in Kadaligada pitched in with ₹5 for necessary expenses of medicines and equipment. The residents further pledged to provide ₹5 every month to restock the box.

In September 2020, for two months, Muskan, a SBI YFI intern with Gram Vikas, had interned for Pratham Education Foundation in their Health Content curation team. Owing to the pandemic, volunteers from rural areas placed queries to doctors online on issues such as administering first aid, the usage of medicines, dressing wounds, checking expiry dates, and acquiring the medicines from the medical shop. The doctor addressed these queries online and facilitated the volunteers in understanding the instructions in a vernacular language. Through their guidance, she was able to curate videos and posters on the processes of administering first aid for dehydration, nose bleed, minor burns, cuts, etc., and give Nilanchal a basic walkthrough.

During one of her subsequent visits to the village, she recalled noticing Nilancha dressing the wound of a resident using the gauze and cotton from the first-aid box in the exact procedure as shared during training. This led to her decision to increase first-aid practices through setting up kits and employing volunteers in other villages as well. To build this, she made a testimonial video of Nilanchal’s case as a step towards helping the ill and empowering the villagers.

Manoj Jani, a resident of Kadaligada took an interest in the video’s production. After finishing twelfth, he had begun working for the forest department. Muskan asked him to make short videos for WhatsApp on first aid and its administration in his vicinity, through which he learned how to find good practices on first aid, learning about the benefits of having medical care available easily in the village, and evolving skills such as storyboarding and scripting. As a result, a volunteer was selected from Adivasi Colony, Nuasahi, and Naragadu villages in the block to administer first aid.

Dilip Kumar Naik, a resident of Kadaligada says, “I got a fever one night. My family called Nilanchal over and he administered a paracetamol tablet. I felt better and did not have to bear the body ache till morning.” Like Dilip and his family, residents of the village are able to gain an immediate respite, knowing that they have basic first aid in their village. Small cuts, burns, and bruises, that earlier required a 20 km ride to the nearest centre, can now be treated early in the village itself, lessening the distress.

The first-aid box includes Dettol, bandage, gauze roll, cotton, scissors, painkillers and Paracetamol, essentials for healing burns, ORS and Band-aids.

Photograph by Narayan Sahu

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Muskan Thakral was a SBI YFI Fellow with Gram Vikas from September 2020 to August 2021. She initiated the first aid kit in Kadaligada village and helped in providing inputs about her initiative in the village. Ganesh Chakravarthi edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.

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