KirdahalliThanda, a remote little thanda (settlement) in SurpurTaluq of Yadgir district, threw up a very curious problem during the baseline assessment done in 2012. At least 70 of the 105 households had someone with either a skin problem or a chronic disease. Already 17 persons had died in the past 2 years.
On further exploration, we found that the underlying cause for the suffering of the residents of this village was the high level of arsenic in the ground water. This was a result of the flooding of a nearby closed gold mine, releasing arsenic based toxins into the ground water.
Like the many other villagers, Thipanna, son of Champulal residing in K. Thanda for more than 40 years was also drinking the unsafe arsenic water, and, as a consequence is affected with skin disease. He has been suffering from this problem for 12 years. He also told us that his mother had expired 3 years back due to skin cancer. Thipanna’s family includes five members.
During a special skin camp conducted in this area in collaboration with dermatologists from St. John’s Medical College, Myrada ensured that Thipanna and others like him were checked. A total of 160 persons attended the skin camp. Thipanna was diagnosed with leucomelanosis on the trunk and back. This is a pre-cancerous skin problem, and if left untreated, may lead to skin cancer. Based on the specialist’s advice, he was provided with plenty of free Whitefield ointment from the project. After 2-3 months, Thipanna has reported relief from skin itching and lightening of the skin lesions. Diagnosed and treated with some topical medicine.
In addition, Myrada has convinced the PHC medical officer and the Arogya Rakhsa Samiti to indent and purchase from their special fund, extra doses of Whitfield’s ointment for these persons. Another 18 persons were referred to tertiary hospital for more advanced skin problems some of them already having skin cancer. They were all linked to the Vajpayee Arogyashree Insurance scheme to defray the costs.
Thipanna- Reduced skin lesions on palm after Skin Camp K. Thanda- Dr.Rohini
6 months treatment, August 13, 2014 screening a patient, K. Thanda 16-11-2013
As a preventive measure towards Thipanna and the many hundreds like him from the 19 affected villages in this area, Myrada has conducted village wise campaigns on the importance of drinking only arsenic-free water. In around 8 villages, the government has installed water filtration plants and charge Rs. 4/- for a 20 litre can. This water must be used for drinking and cooking purposes.
Two other measures taken up for prevention by Myrada are:
a) Piloting the use of arsenic free home based filters providing arsenic free water at the home level using a filter with 1 litre capacity. This has been developed by Tata Consultancy Services R & D division. Their team came and demonstrated this to the villages, and currently a pilot is going on using 10 filters with volunteers. Tests for arsenic levels done before and after filtration have shown that they work effectively. If this is accepted by the community, it can be scaled up.
TCS Mr. Shankar Kausley demonstrating arsenic
filter – KiredalliThanda, July13, 2014
b) Long term measures to provide an alternate source of water through rain water harvesting has been tried in 4 houses. The 2000 litres tank attached to this system in each house provides water to an additional 4 houses. Demonstration tests to show that the rain water was free from arsenic were done to convince the villages. As of now, 12 households are using arsenic free rain water for daily consumption through these units.
Thippana’s daughter drinking water from the Rain Water harvesting system: July 30, 2014
Thipanna and other villagers in K. Thanda have shown good support to all SDTT-MYRADA interventions and intend to support further. They have also expressed a need for a visiting skin specialist doctor at PHC level. MYRADA plans to scale up its interventions and meet the community needs to alleviate the sufferings of the people in K. Thanda and other affected villages. Myrada lobbied with the Health Department to get special funds to address this problem, which they did through a supplementary PIP in October 2013. Myrada was also selected to conduct training for their frontline workers. However, the local DHO used up the funds for some other purposes and this training could not be done. SDTT funds were finally used to conduct the
training in our working area only. To date, the department has not conducted any specialist camps though they had received approval for the same.