Call to Action for a TB-free Jharkhand launched

Ranchi, 21 February: “TB is the oldest disease in the world and yet we haven’t been able to eradicate it. This is now the goal and vision of our Prime Minister, and I must congratulate all of you, on behalf of the Jharkhand government, for working towards making this possible,” said Shri Ramchandra Chandravanshi, Minister of Health, Medical Education and Family Welfare, Government of Jharkhand. He was speaking at the launch of the Tuberculosis (TB) Call to Action Project in the state, held in Ranchi earlier today. The TB Call to Action project is being implemented by REACH with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

With over 1,300 deaths per day, TB continues to be a grave public health crisis in India. TB Champions and Ambassadors can play a valuable role in improving awareness of the disease and dispelling myths and misconceptions. Ms Deepika Kumari, Arjuna award-winning archer and Padmashri recipient, announced that she would be a TB Ambassador for the state of Jharkhand. “I am happy to join the fight against TB in Jharkhand and to work with the TB Programme and REACH. The stigma associated with the disease affects everyone but especially women. There are so many stories of women with TB who have been thrown out of their families. We must stop isolating people with TB. I know that if all of us speak up to Stop TB, before the next Olympics in 2020, we will be closer to our dream of a TB-free Jharkhand and a TB-free India, she declared.

Shri Ram Tahal Chaudhary, Member of Parliament, Ranchi, called on all stakeholders, including other parliamentarians and elected corporators, to get involved in the fight against TB. “With unified efforts, we have made great progress in the field of public health and TB. Isolation, stigma and discrimination used to be a very grave problem in TB but now this has improved. Wherever my support and that of my peers is concerned, I offer my involvement”, he said.

Shri Sudhir Tripathi, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Jharkhand, said, “I congratulate public spirited organisations like REACH for their hard work, thanks to which, elimination of TB is now on the antenna of such bodies and with time, we will reach our goal. Once we are inclusive in our approach, our outreach, leveraging all the available tools, then we will be able to offer a united thrust to be closer to our goal.”

Also gracing the occasion was Shri Rakesh Prasad, Deputy Chairman, Common Minimum Programme. Addressing the gathering, he said, “It is imperative to look at every point [of the 20-point programme] in an integrated manner, and this is where the role of this project, the TB Call to Action, by REACH, is instrumental. In the case of TB, the different relevant factors are health, sanitation, urban slums, development of backward areas, environment protection and afforestation.”

The event also saw the participation of Mr Mintoo Kumar Sinha, a TB survivor. “I have been working as a lab technician since 2010, and I got TB myself. I completed my six months treatment through DOTS and was cured completely. I urge everyone to complete their treatment and become TB-free.”, he said. Several TB Champions and survivors were recognized for their contribution to the fight against TB, including Sister Britto, Mr Faiz Anwer and Mr Murari Singh.

Other participants included Dr Rakesh Dayal, Nodal Officer, State TB Cell, Jharkhand who presented a status update on TB in the state and said, “We need the commitment of all stakeholders including corporates, community, patients, government, NGOs, etc, to counter this disease”.

“Through this project, REACH seeks to amplify and support India’s response to TB by involving previously unengaged stakeholders and broadening the conversation around the disease,” said Ms Smrity Kumar, Project Director of TB Call to Action, in her address.

The launch event was followed by a panel discussion to discuss the need for convergence for TB and the role of different ministries and departments in addressing the socio-economic impact of TB. The panelists included Mr Das, Secretary, Department of Welfare, GOJ; Dr Sumant Mishra, Director, Health Services; Mr Ashutosh Prasad, Additional Director – Mines; Dr Rakesh Dayal, Nodal Officer, State TB Cell; Mr Inderjeet Banerjee from Medanta and was moderated by Dr Ramya Ananthakrishnan, Executive Director, REACH.

The TB Call to Action Project is being implemented with support from USAID in Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Bihar and Rajasthan.