For the Indian Red Cross Team, visiting Punjab, it was fruit of hard labour that all the 181 TB patients of the two districts of Amritsar and Jalandhar fully adhered to their treatment and are now TB free.
The team consisted of Maude Froberg, Regional Communications & Advocacy Manager, (SARD), IFRC, Dr Kailash Raizada, Advisor (Health), IFRC, Dr Vanshree Singh, Director, IRCS & Programme In-charge (Health) and Gopal Mukherjee, Health Advisor-South Asia, IFRC.
The Indian Red Cross Society, National headquarters is implementing TB project India with the support of IFRC, India Office since 2009. The programme that initially started in 3 states has been now extended to 7 states i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Odisha, Bihar and Haryana. The emphasis of the project is to identify the Cat II patients within accessible proximity to the IRCS State Branches and surrounding areas and advocate full treatment. The volunteers take the patients to the DOTS centre and provide them with dietary protein supplements. These volunteers, whose ratio is at least 1 per 6 patients also disseminate information about TB, its treatment and basic precautions in the patients’ immediate community and thereby prevent the spread of this disease.
The team visited the DOTS centres in Jalandhar and Amritsar and met the respective DTO’s Dr Rajiv and Dr N Chawla who briefed them about the treatment strategy and practises. Both the DTO’s are highly thankful to the Indian Red Cross Society for its support and requested the team to increase the number of patients under its programme umbrella.
They were appreciative of the Red Cross volunteers who are helping patients to adhere to full treatment with a distinct humanitarian touch, working without personal benefits or incentive. Many a times, the patients are not able to open up or take treatment for TB since it entails social stigma and prejudice in the immediate neighbourhood. But the Indian Red Cross volunteers take extra measure of secrecy and ensure patients’ visits to the DOTS centre by accompanying them.
The IRCS TB Project India is based on four key operational strategies to combat the spread of TB and further control of Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB, i.e Prevention, Care and support, Fighting Stigma and discrimination and advocacy, communication and social mobilization.
IRCS has 170 trained volunteers at targeted state/district branches for a total no. of 980 CAT II patients to be covered in the existing states and 200 CAT II patients to be covered in Bihar (Patna) urban and sub- urban areas. Through IRCS efforts and programmes, approximately 17,700 people have been made aware about TB and its prevention. With the outreach activity in 12 districts and 7 urban/sub urban clusters, IRCS would be able to reach out to approx. 33, 600 community members by the end of project. The success of the programme is tremendous as in all the states, more than 90% of observed TB patients adhered to the complete treatment.