A lone warrior who fights malaria and saves lives

For the past two decades, Ram Kumari has been single-handedly ensuring timely diagnosis of the disease in her village in Chhattisgarh

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 31 May 2019

Ram KUMARI always wanted to be a nurse. But she had to drop out after standard eight as her father, a farmer, could not afford school fees for five children. So in 2000, when non-profit Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) conducted a training programme on blood sample collection, she grabbed the opportunity. Ever since, the 43-year-old has saved the lives of over 100 people infected with malaria in her tribal village of Semaria in Chhattisgarh by ensuring early detection and timely medical intervention. She is one of the 140 proud JSS-trained village health workers operating in 70 malaria-endemic villages of Bilaspur district that still do not have proper diagnostic centres.

JSS runs a low-cost, effective community health programme to provide preventative and curative health services to people from the tribal and rural areas of Bilaspur. In 2018, the country recorded 0.4 million cases of malaria. According to JSS, 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in tribal areas.

But malaria is easily treatable if diagnosed and treated promptly. To ensure this, every morning Kumari goes around the village collecting blood samples of pregnant women and those suffering from fever and flu-like illness. At 9.30 am, she reaches the bus stand and hands over the samples to the conductor of a local bus plying to neighbouring Ganiyari village, where JSS has set up a diagnostics centre. On reaching the destination, a JSS representative receives the samples for testing. Around evening, the test results are handed over to the bus conductor, who, during the return journey, delivers those to Kumari. She then informs the families of the test results and ensures that malaria patients are rushed for treatment.

Widely respected in Semaria, Kumari recalls that it was not easy in the beginning. The mother of three says residents would often doubt her credentials because the profession is traditionally associated with men. Their mindset changed when her work started saving lives. Today, she also aids in child birth and earns Rs 2,500 a month for her services.

The income has given her the confidence that she will be able to provide her children quality education and fund their dreams.

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