Malaria and other vector borne diseases contribute heavily to ill health in developing countries, including several areas in India. The central government’s programme for control of malaria have used techniques which were not leading to effective control of vector and transmission of disease, there was a need to relook and reflect on the effectiveness and appropriateness of those strategies.
In 1996 SOCHARA partnered with the Voluntary Health Association of India in an initiative on malaria control, members coordinated the effort and compiled a report on an appropriate malaria control strategy. It recommended that malaria programme should allow flexibility and diversity of response to diverse local situations and also suggested exploration of traditional remedies for malaria control. Follow-up reports and articles showed through a broader socio-epidemiological analysis that the healthcare system was increasingly resistant towards rational and sustained malaria control.
To further strengthen the evidence in the use of bio-environmental methods in malaria control, studies were conducted to test effectiveness of larvivorous fish in community settings. Efforts were also made to popularize these methods in the community using local traditional communication methods like folk theatre (kala jatha), and communities themselves were involved in the implementation and maintenance of these methods.
SOCHARA participated as the editors of the Roll Back Malaria report for the WHO South East Asia Regional Office. Emphasis was also laid on community empowerment and participation, and it was recommended that multi-sectoral involvement including NGOs and private sector will further strengthen malaria control efforts.
Capacity building efforts of communities were made, with the drafting of training modules for women’s empowerment and participation in mosquito control at community and district level. An innovative module was also written on malaria and malaria control for high school students studying with Central Board of Secondary Education as a part of their curriculum in Environmental Studies.
Collaborations with several local citizens’ action groups and municipal bodies in Bangalore and Mangalore were undertaken to improve mosquito control. SOCHARA along with other researchers from National Institute of Malaria Research identified that inappropriate urban planning and construction design was leading to widespread stagnant water pools where mosquitoes were breeding. The importance of each stakeholder was emphasized for the control efforts, and suggestions were made to the respective local governmental bodies to act as per the recommendations given.
Improvement in the design of storm drains and roofs of homes, along with the use of bioenvironmental control methods were some of the specific suggestions given.