NEW DELHI: One out of every four TB patients in the world is in India. In absolute numbers, that’s 26. 9 lakh Indians, as per current data.
A huge majority of those TB patients are poor. TB treatment is free, funded by the government, which also provides some money for maintaining a proper diet.
But this is a disease that hits the poor really hard – because treatment calls for periods of rest and regular intake of nutritious food over a period of months, and both are often out of reach for those who live on daily, modest incomes.
What if, though, these poor TB patients had friends, friends who helped them tide over the periods they are out of work and made sure they were on recommended diets?
This was the idea that launched GoI’s Ni-Kshay Mitra initiative – connecting poor TB patients who need help and better-off citizens who can and are willing to help.
It followed a target set by PM Modi that India must eradicate TB by 2025, five years before the WHO deadline of 2030.
It’s early days – the scheme was launched on September 9, although preparatory work had begun earlier – but already 15,415 large-hearted friends have adopted 9. 56 lakh poor TB patients across the country.
Even better news is that those coming forward to help are not just individuals (8,595), but companies (294), political organisations (629), elected representatives (534) and NGOs (1,291).
The stories are heart-warming.
The daughter of a cart-puller
Sanjay, a cart-puller from Haryana’s Panchkula district, had barely recovered from the trauma of losing his wife to TB when his three-month-old daughter Siya started running recurrent fever. Tests confirmed she too was positive for drug-resistant TB. Sanjay rushed Siya to the local dispensary where the child was put on anti-TB therapy. But Sanjay’s challenges weren’ t limited to seeking treatment.
The 33-year-old told TOI that having spent most of his earnings on his wife’s treatment, he was at wits’ end on how to ensure proper care and food for the baby. Just then, a voluntary donor who had registered himself to support a TB patient contacted the 33-year-old with an offer to adopt his daughter to provide nutritional support.
“She (the donor or Nikshay Mitra) sent baby food and daliya for my daughter recently and has promised to keep sending the same until my daughter gets completely healthy,” Sanjay said.
A teacher & a homemaker reach out
Vivek Singh, a biology teacher, says he has adopted a TB patient in Mirzapur, UP, where he lives. “I have adopted Mangal Chouhan, a worker detected with TB recently,” Singh said, adding that he plans to send food packets for about a year to support the patient.
Vanita Verma, from Rohtak, Haryana says she has adopted a woman who is eight months pregnant and suffers from TB. “I am from a well-to-do family. My decision to adopt this patient stems simply from the belief to do good for people who are in need,” Verma told TOI.
Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya h as adopted 40 TB patients from Palitana block in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, his birthplace.
Planning for Nikshay & how it works
Health ministry officials say the process of identifying patients who wanted to be adopted started in June-July. “Our peripheral health workers – Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, ASHA and senior treatment supervisors – contacted each and every patient who was on treatment to seek consent. In two months, we have managed to get the consent of 9. 57 lakh (71% of the 13. 5 lakh new cases of TB detected this year who are currently on treatment) for adoption,” an official from the union health ministry said.
He expressed confidence that all patients who have consented for adoption will fi nd voluntary donors to look after their nutritional, diagnostic and vocational needs.
For anyone interested in being an adopter, this is how the scheme works.