There are 1,988 tuberculosis patients in Meghalaya who have signed up for support under the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) but only 513 have actually received it so far, a government press release stated.
Under NTEP, patients are supported with free diagnostics and medicines. It was during 2018 that under the scheme Nikshay Poshan Yojana, the government started providing free nutritional support of Rs 500 per month to all TB patients registered in Nikshay until their treatment is complete. However, despite efforts made by the government, the goal of elimination seems to be impracticable without community participation. Active community participation plays a vital role in the TB elimination goal.
The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, through the Central TB Division, has introduced the ‘Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ (PMTBMBA) campaign where the community is encouraged to adopt TB patients and support them in the form of nutritional support, nutritional supplements, additional investigations, and vocational support for a minimum period of six months or maximum period of up to three years.
Under this programme, a donor is called Nikshay Mitra, who can be an individual, NGO, cooperative societies, faith-based organisation, political party, etc. A Mitra can adopt a minimum of one consented TB patient on treatment for a minimum period of six months for any kind of support they want to give.
Currently, Meghalaya has 1,988 TB patients who have consented to additional support from Nikshay Mitras, out of which 513 have received the required support through 59 registered Mitras. This has resulted in the reduction of the out-of-pocket expenditure for the family of the supported TB patients and improved nutrition for the patients. The active involvement of the community in the TB elimination campaign will also alleviate the stigma related to the disease, the release added.
“In addition to the government’s efforts, the community and institutions can also play an important role in fighting against Tuberculosis,” said Dr M Mawrie, the State TB Officer. “The voluntary involvement of the community will not only help in spreading awareness about TB but also accelerate the society’s involvement in fighting it by addressing the stigma around it.”
As TB usually affects the most economically productive age group (15 to 45 years), it results in a significant loss of working days thereby pushing TB patients into the vortex of poverty. Dr Amica J Rynjah, Assistant Program Officer at the State NTEP, said that “Some patients are the sole bread earners of their family and with them being affected with TB, the whole family suffers.”
Loss of livelihood is one of the most commonly encountered adverse impacts of TB. Therefore, other than nutritional support, consented TB patients can also be given vocational support.
Mr Greenwell, a TB patient who consented to the support, was delighted to learn that someone from the community wanted to assist him during his treatment. “I want to thank my donor for providing me with the monthly food basket and supporting me in my battle against this disease,” he said. His Mitra has committed to supporting him for a duration of one year with a monthly supply of 1kg dal, one tray of eggs, and soya chunks.
Fr Ambukumar Anthony, from St Joseph Church in Selsella is his Mitra, and Mr. Greenwell is hopeful that more like him will come forward to help end this disease.
“I feel privileged and blessed to be able to support an in-need TB patient even though it is just for a period of 12 months. I’m honoured to be a small part of this fight against this illness and to be able to make a difference,” stated Fr Anthony, who is supporting seven TB patients from the District TB hospital in Tura with additional nutritional food baskets.
Anyone who wishes to extend their support to consented TB patients can visit the NIKSHAY web portal (www.nikshay.in) and register themselves as Mitras, or they can contact their nearest PHC/CHC or District Tuberculosis Officer for assistance in registering. Nikshay Mitras who wish to remain anonymous may do so by donating to bank accounts created specifically for this purpose under the names of Nikshay Mitra/ PMTBMBA in different districts. To become an anonymous donor/mitra, one can email their respective District Tuberculosis Officer to obtain bank account details to the following email addresses provided: firstname.lastname@example.org (East and West Jaintia Hills), email@example.com (East Khasi Hills), firstname.lastname@example.org (West Khasi Hills), email@example.com (East Garo Hills), firstname.lastname@example.org (West Garo Hills), email@example.com (Ri-Bhoi) and firstname.lastname@example.org (South Garo Hills).
“Support from people of the community on humanitarian grounds can save the life of a TB patient and help in achieving the National goal of ending TB by 2025,” Dr Mawrie said.
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