Centre plans to set up occupational surveillance system for covid-19

livemint | May 26, 2021

The move is in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization report titled Preventing and Mitigating Covid-19 at Work Policy

The Centre is planning to set up an occupational surveillance system for monitoring the impact of covid considering that professionals, including healthcare workers, are vulnerable to the virus.

The Directorate General of Factory Advisory Services and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), which comes under the ministry of labour and employment, has constituted an academic committee to study the impact of covid-19 on professionals.

The move is in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization report titled Preventing and Mitigating Covid-19 at Work Policy. According to the WHO document, an occupational surveillance system for covid-19 enables public health officials and employers to evaluate the efficacy of workplace interventions and is critical to understanding the true impact of the pandemic on professions.

The major occupational diseases and morbidity in India are silicosis, musculoskeletal injuries, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive lung diseases, asbestosis, byssinosis, pesticide poisoning and noise-induced hearing loss. DGFASLI serves as a technical arm of the ministry and assists in formulating national policies on occupational safety and health for factories and docks. It also advises factories on the problems concerning safety, health, efficiency and well-being of every employee.

The panel had recently convened a meeting with specialists to identify the burden and impact of the disease among various occupations ranging from hospital staff to sanitation workers, factory workers, pharma company employees and hospitality staff.

“As several respiratory illnesses are a part of the occupational diseases list in India, covid-19, too, qualifies to be a part of it. So far, we have only seen that surveillance of covid-19 has been done largely on healthcare workers who obviously directly deal with the disease,” said Dr T.K. Joshi, member of the DGFASLI committee on covid.

Joshi, a former director-occupational environment and medical programme, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, is also a consultant to the Union health ministry and a member of the central pollution control board.

“Covid-19 is also common in pharmacies, airports, among people handling waste from hospitals and pharmaceutical factories, workers in hospitality industry as for last two years many hospital chains were involved in treatment of covid patients. We aim to understand the impact of covid-19 on these occupations also,” said Joshi.

The WHO recommended policy action calls for establishing an occupational health surveillance system for covid. It said that such a system will help countries understand which worker populations are at risk and activities most associated with contracting covid-19.

The global public health agency said local public health agencies involved in contact tracing should be supported by occupational health services and help practitioners determine work-related hazards. It also said that information must be collected during interviews of positive cases for determining risks in contracting covid.

Strengthening A Nutrition Sensitive Approach In Agriculture In India

poshan.outlookindia.com | May 20, 2021

The urban and rural population in India still faces nutrition linked health concerns due to a non-balanced diet. Let’s take a look at how various public-private initiatives has helped in meeting the nutritional challenges.

M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) runs the ‘Annadata Nuritional Garden Model’ in Kundra Block of tribal dominated Koratpur District, Odisha State. This district is one of the sixty-nine districts identified as being disadvantaged in terms of poverty, hunger, infant mortality, immunization, literacy, school enrollment and gender disparity.

Once covered with dense forests, this mineral rich district has been facing rapid deforestation as also the wrath of climate change, deeply impacting the tribal farmers’ traditional agricultural methods. Declining crop yield in paddy, that requires a lot of water for cultivation, is also an offshoot of these evolving critical phenomenon in this rainfed district.

The MSSRF Model aims at building the capacity of women farmers through self-help groups (SHGs) to cultivate fruits, vegetables in their backyards on a pilot scale. This is a structured garden with multiple crops to enhance food and nutritional security of the family. The crops range from leafy vegetables to fruits and spices grown in the organic mode.

The Annadata Model’s sustained interventions, especially through participatory communication, have led to a positive change in the consumption patterns. The daily diet has now been balanced in terms of vegetables, fruits and in addition pulses, that are rich in a wide range of nutrients including minerals and vitamins. More significantly, this approach has taken care of nutritional security of the families for the entire year.

As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) about 35.6 % of our children below the age of five are under weight (too thin for their age), 38.4 % are stunted (too short for their age), 21% are wasted (too thin for their height, age). Further about 8% are acutely malnourished (hidden hunger occurring on account of deficiencies of micro-nutrients such as vitamins or minerals). The data also indicates that almost half of the population is anemic and at the same time 20% and 18% of the population is overweight and obese (excess of macro-nutrients-calorie in particular) respectively.

The country’s national nutrition strategy includes programs such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) that focuses on children and nursing mothers. The Government of India also runs the Midday Meal Program (MDM) for providing fresh cooked meals in schools. Besides, there is the provision of affordable nutritious food as a legal entitlement for the vulnerable and poorest.

Care for acute malnutrition is supplemented, in addition, through rehabilitation centers run under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). There are also food safety regulations and programs for making available bio-fortified crops such as iron rich bajra, protein rich maize and zinc rich wheat.

The Report of the Committee on Doubling Farmers Income (DFI), 2017 observes that the urban and rural population in India is still facing nutrition linked health concerns (e.g., due to non-balanced diet) despite the fact that the country produces large quantities of high nutrition foods such as cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and eggs.

The plate, it adds, impacts the demand of inputs at farms. The Report therefore recommends that interventions at the last mile should be designed to recover demand for crops that create value not only for farmers’ return but also for families’ access to nutrition, health and well-being.

For instance, experts contend that millets (Jowar, Ragi, Bajra etc.) are three to five times more nutritious than wheat and rice in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins. They need very little water for production (require just around 25% of the rainfall regime demanded by crops such as Sugarcane and Banana).

More importantly, they can be grown in vast dryland areas using farmyard manures thus reducing the dependence on synthetic fertilizers. Thus, expansion of a robust millet cropping system and its promotion in the country is providing multiple securities including nutrition keeping in mind the impact of climate change.

Experts further state that a key factor that hampers access to nutritious food in a family is its inequitable allocation for women and young children. Rural women, especially as farmers, have a critical role to play in sowing, weeding and harvesting of agricultural crops. Women’s empowerment, therefore, can have a direct impact on agricultural productivity as well as making nutrition ‘inclusive’ at home in true sense of the word.

Hence, the Governments’ push for investments, such as the setting up of Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF), that fosters funding for women farmer collectives such as self-help groups and their federations. The Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) program, in addition, aims at their effective participation as member shareholders in these entities.

In fact, agricultural extension too has a very critical role to play. Nonprofit communication organizations such as ‘Digital Green’ have been supplementing the efforts of the National Rural Livelihood Missions (NRLM), at the last mile, in developing and promoting nutrition sensitive agriculture curriculum through community led videos.

Typically, these participatory videos empower women farmers on themes such as seasonal changes that affect nutrition and addressing challenges from agricultural production through buying and selling.

India’s agriculture and food security policies, thus, are now going beyond the calorie sufficiency approach towards ensuring access to a nutritionally balanced and diverse diet. One of the key drivers of this change is the expansion of the modern food retail industry valued at $ 380 billion during the last decade.

Altered consumption patterns, as a result, have provided an opportunity to modern agri-food systems to evolve in the organized sector. At the same time, as climate change threatens the production of crops, the Government is evolving and propagating technologies for drought, heat and flood resistant non- staples (pulses, fruits and vegetables) in addition to staple grains. This is to mitigate vulnerability of the poorest against malnutrition especially in states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The grassroots efforts of public- private initiatives such as that of the Swaminathan Research Foundation and Digital Green, to meet local and regional nutritional challenges for the poorest, are laudable. We direly need to reenergize a nutrition sensitive approach in agriculture by strengthening the capacities of our last mile governance institutions such as Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVKs), Common Service Centers (CSCs) and Gram Panchayats, in addition.

COVID-19: Increasing Cases Reported Among Vulnerable Tribal Communities in Central India

News Click | May 19, 2021

Lack of testing, reluctance towards vaccination in the absence of awareness measures and severely under-reported deaths mark the second wave of the pandemic for the tribal groups in Odisha, MP, Gujarat and Karnataka.

As the second wave of COVID-19 wreaks havoc in urban cities, infections are reportedly increasing across vulnerable tribal belts in several states in central and southern India, including Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

Tribal people account for around 370 million people in 70 countries around the world and make up 8.2% of the population in India.

According to tribal rights activists, the government has failed to check the invasion of the virus into the tribal communities in the central Indian states in the absence of specific protocols to tackle its spread.

Despite their relative isolation, members of many tribal groups in central India have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The surge in infections in closed communities is being attributed to the movement of outsiders and contact spreading through local markets among other reasons. However, what makes the spread more worrisome are the nutritional and health discrepancies among the communities, increasing distrust of government policies including vaccination and limited access to healthcare system, making infectious diseases specially COVID-19 deadlier among these groups.

Speaking to NewsClick about it, Rajaram Sunderesan, a researcher based in Odisha associated with tribal studies explained the crisis, “The Odisha Government’s COVID-19 management practices were at one point being hailed by everyone but, on the contrary, the truth is that this government is clueless about tackling the spread of the virus when it comes to adivasi areas. Odisha has one of the largest number of tribal communities in the country, but the government till now has not come up with any prescribed guidelines on tackling the situation on the ground.”

He said, “Historically, it is well known that the state health agencies, including primary and community health centres, have treated people from adivasi communities with utmost disrespect and indignity. The government desperately needs to decentralise its COVID-19 management process. It also needs to understand that the idea of home isolation will not work within adivasi communities. This is because the notion of privacy is very different within adivasi cultures.”

“The government must open its eyes and ears to the requirements of these communities or the situation will descend into crisis like the 16th century epidemics that wiped out whole adivasi communities,” Sunderasan added.

In Maharashtra’s Palghar, tribals from Kunbi, Bhandari and Warli communities are battling a grave shortage of ICU beds and medicines as anxieties soar about the spread of community infection.

On the other hand, several tribal hamlets in Karnataka’s Mysuru and Kodagu region have reported a surge in infections. At least 15 tribals belonging to the Soliga community have contracted the infection over the past week. Cases have been reported from the traditional honey gathering Jenu Kuruba tribe as well.

Gujarat’s Bhil tribal group has also reported cases of fatal infection in the villages surrounding the Statue of Unity. However, lack of testing and data collection, and suppression of information in these areas has reportedly led to fragmented information about COVID-19 related deaths among the community.

Confirming community infection and casualties, Chhotubhai Vasava, a tribal leader from Gujarat, said, “There is no model for the treatment of the adivasis amid the pandemic. In addition to many cases in the remote belts of Dahoud and Panchamal, in the area surrounding the Statue of Unity, over 34 COVID-19 related deaths of Bhils have also been reported. However, only 9-10 deaths were recorded as major cases were unaccounted for. In remote tribal regions, the communities have locked their areas from outside contact to minimise the spread of infection. This is being done by the communities themselves as the state government has failed to address the issues of the tribal communities.”

Further, the COVID-19 crisis has also fuelled suspicions and anxieties among tribal communities contributing to reluctance and fears regarding the vaccination process, as per reports. Meanwhile, the Centre and the state governments have initiated vaccination, but distrust towards government machinery remains strong, Vasava added.

Highlighting the situation in tribal belts of Burhanpur region in Madhya Pradesh, Madhuri Krishnaswamy of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, said, “There are huge fever surges, sometimes pneumonia like symptoms. Compared to the urban areas, the symptoms among the tribals in remote areas are mild and moderate.”

Commenting on the doubts surrounding vaccination and so on, she added, “On the other hand, there is the question of vaccination. People on the ground do not fear COVID-19 as much as the alleged cases of post-vaccination deaths. Many are viewing this as an attack by the government on the poor, especially as last year even the mildly symptomatic were whisked off to COVID-19 centres against their will. Also there has been no attempt made by the government to disseminate information about the vaccines and the people who are at potential risk from the vaccine.”

Bengaluru: 100-bed super speciality hospital to come up at Hutti Gold Mines camp site

Daijiworld | May 19, 2021

Bengaluru, May 19: Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani laid the foundation for establishing a 100-bed super speciality hospital at Hutti Gold Mines campsite in Raichuru district on Wednesday.

The super speciality hospital will be jointly funded by Hutti Gold Mines Ltd (HGML), State Mines and Geology Department through District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Fund and State Labour department.

The camp site already has a 120-bed hospital exclusively for the medical needs of 5000-odd employees of HGML.

As covid-19 cases surged, the minister decided to convert 40-beds into oxygenated beds for the treatment of the patients. The new super-speciality hospital will come to the same campsite.

After laying the foundation for the facility, the minister ordered the HGML authorities to procure a CT scanner immediately.

“This will help detect Covid-19 infections among the people amid the growing number of cases in the second wave of Coronavirus,” he said.

Nirani also set in motion to set up a nursing college at Hutti Gold Mines campsite. This will help address shortage and provide placements to nurses and paramedics at hospitals in Raichuru district.

Minister Nirani had earlier announced to set up a Covid Care Centre in the vicinity of the HGML. This will help provide better treatment to the employees of Hutti Gold Mines and people in the surrounding villages that have been witnessing a growing number of Covid-19 cases.

The minister has instructed authorities to stop mining operations in Hutti Gold Mines in order to protect employees from Covid-19 pandemic.

He said it would be very difficult for the miners and other staff to maintain social distancing and other norms while carrying out mining operations underground and moving in a shaft.

The state government was more concerned about the well-being of employees than generating revenue during the public health crisis, Nirani said.

50% of DMF fund to be utilised for fighting corona infection in Durg

The Hitavada | May 19, 2021

All the members of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) emphasized on the use of DMF’s resources to deal with the corona infection in the meeting of DMF Governing Council held on Tuesday. Members said that keeping in view the apprehension of the third wave, it is very important that adequate arrangements are made to deal with it and for this adequate funds should be made available through DMF. In the meeting, the Minister in-charge of the district, Mohammad Akbar said that with the opinion and decision of the members, half the amount i.e. about Rs 3 crores should be reserved for expenditure under this head.

After consideration of the proposals of the honorable members from the remaining Rs 3 crore 38 lakh, work on them should be started. Home and PWD Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu said that the remaining amount should be sanctioned for the development works which are of the most urgent nature. Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey said that DMF will have to constantly update its resources to provide help. PHE Minister Guru Rudra Kumar said that DMF have continuously worked in this direction and further preparation will be very useful for us.

Durg MLA Arun Vora kept the major demands of the area in the meeting. Vaishali Nagar MLA Vidyaratan Bhasin said that the vaccination process will be long, construction work can be started from the DMF item at the vaccination sites so that people do not face problems in the rainy season. Bhilai MLA raised the issue of drinking water in the township. Collector Dr Bhure said that the BSP management has been told to change the technology of the filter plant and take immediate measures. The administration has conducted a re-test of drinking water and the quality has improved. At the meeting, Collector Dr Bhure informed in detail about the work done so far from DMF resources. He said that works worth Rs 133 crore have been proposed so far, most of which have been completed. Out of 3475 sanctioned works, 352 works are in progress. District Panchayat President Shalini Yadav, BMC Commissioner Rituraj Raghuvanshi, District Panchayat CEO Sachchidanand Alok, Risali Corporation Commissioner Prakash Surve and other officials were present in the meeting.

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