COVID hits distribution of insecticide-treated nets in Bhadradri-Kothagudem

These are critical tools for preventing vector-borne diseases in tribal pockets

The crisis triggered by the second wave of COVID-19 impeded the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), the critical tools for pre-empting the outbreaks of vector-borne diseases in the district’s interior tribal pockets, ahead of the monsoon season.

More than 1.60 lakh LLINs were sanctioned to the tribal-dominated district comprising around 500 “high risk” villages earlier this year under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

In store rooms

Thousands of these mosquito nets, which were to be handed over to people living in malaria-endemic areas in the pre-monsoon season, continue to lie in the storage points at the Gram Panchayats level.

According to official data, an estimated 2.76 lakh people are living in 501 villages identified as high-risk areas located in the limits of as many as 27 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the district. Multiple factors including the pandemic-induced lockdown and shortage of the grassroots level health functionaries such as the community health assistants led to the delay in distribution of the mosquito nets in time. More than 30 posts of health assistants are lying vacant and several of the field-level functionaries of the health department are infected with COVID-19 in Bhadrachalam Agency, sources in the health department said.

The delay is threatening to exacerbate the vulnerability of tribal people inhabiting various remote forest fringe habitations in Bhadrachalam Agency, considered as hotspots for malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, during the ensuing rainy season. However, the health department officials insist that enhanced vector surveillance and early diagnosis and treatment as part of the integrated vector control strategy resulted in a significant decrease in the number of malaria and dengue cases in the district.

The district has reported 107 malaria and seven dengue cases so far this year, sources added.

The field-level health functionaries will be deployed to distribute the mosquito nets among the beneficiaries at their doorsteps in the high-risk villages in an expeditious manner, Dr Mokalla Venkateswara Rao, Programme Officer, NVBDCP, Bhadradri-Kothagudem, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

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