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23rd January Current Affairs

India’s plan to eradicate measles, rubella

(GS-II: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health)

In News:

India set a goal (in 2019) to eradicate measles and rubella (MR) by 2023 after missing the previous deadline of 2020 (an earlier target of 2015 was also missed) for a number of reasons, worsened by the pandemic’s disruptions.

Why is eliminating MR crucial?

According to the WHO, the measles virus is one of the world’s most contagious human viruses that kills more than 1,00,000 children every year globally and rubella is a leading cause of birth defects.

An outbreak of measles in Maharashtra in 2022, particularly in Mumbai, killed 15 children among several hundred who contracted the infection.

What has India done to achieve targets?

During 2010-2013, India conducted a phased measles catch-up immunisation for children aged 9 months-10 years in 14 States, vaccinating approximately 119 million children.

Mission Indradhanush was launched in 2014 to ramp up vaccinating the unvaccinated population.

During 2017–2021, India adopted a national strategic plan for MR elimination, and introduced rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) into the routine immunisation programme, besides launching a nationwide MR supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) catch-up campaign.

Additionally, it changed the focus of acute fever and rash surveillance from outbreak-based to case-based.

Also, the number of laboratories in the MR network has more than doubled.

What needs to be done to achieve the target?

The main concern is the under-one-year population. But if the immunisation at 95% can be maintained, it will be possible.

However, it needs to be done district by district –

  • Give each district a target to achieve the required rate of immunisation,
  • Conduct a robust fever and rash surveillance programme, testing for MR.

Monitoring the progress and providing additional inputs to the districts that are lagging in implementing the immunisation.

In the process, it is important to provide full support (improve their service conditions, and salaries) to the ground-level staff (village health nurses, ASHA, Anganwadi and ICDS workers) who implement the programme.

Conclusion:

Having strong immunisation infrastructure, States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala will find it easier to reach the targets, unlike the other States where more effort will be needed to do so.

As the saying goes – “a threat of infection anywhere is a threat everywhere,” India needs to improve its surveillance by finding, investigating, collecting, and testing a sample for every suspected case in every district across every State and UT.

Swami Sahajanand Saraswati

In News:

The Union Home Minister will take part in a celebration commemorating farmer leader Swami Sahajanand Saraswati’s birth anniversary in Patna, Bihar.

Swami Sahajanand Saraswati:

He (real name Navrang Rai) was an ascetic, a nationalist and a peasant leader of India.

Although born in present-day UP, his social and political activities focussed mostly on Bihar in the initial days, and gradually spread to the rest of India.

The Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) was founded by Saraswati in 1929 to address peasants’ complaints about zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights, and served as the foundation for the farmers’ movements in India.

The All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was established at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, with Saraswati chosen as its first President.

Subhash Chandra Bose and the All India Forward Bloc decided to observe April 28 as All-India Swami Sahajanand Day in protest of his arrest by the British Raj during the Quit India Movement.

Ayushman Bharat School Health and Wellness Programme (SHWP) has less than 50% uptake

In News:

Almost three years after its implementation, with a robust syllabus from NCERT, less than half of India’s States have started weekly classroom sessions with students.

Details:

Reasons for less uptake: Overwork of government teachers, not all States have set aside the weekly time slot in the classroom schedule, no formal reporting structure or accountability.

About SHWP:

SHWP under Ayushman Bharat was launched in 2018 (a joint collaborative programme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resource Development)

Aim: It aims to create awareness about age-appropriate information about health and nutrition among children in schools.

  • Role of teachers: Teachers act as “Health and Wellness Ambassadors” and disseminate various key information by organising culturally sensitive activity-based sessions for one hour per week for 24 weeks a year to promote joyful learning.
  • Two teachers, preferably one male and one female, in every school, are to be designated as HWAs
  • Role of students: Students act as Health and Wellness Messengers in society.
  • Every Tuesdayis dedicated to Health and Wellness Day in the schools
  • Implementation: middle, secondary, and senior secondary grades across government and government-aided schools
  • Syllabus: NCERT+ Ministry of Health+ Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD)
  • Curriculum: It covers 11 core themes including managing emotional and mental health, navigating interpersonal relationships, and promoting the safe use of the internet and social media.

Other similar programmes are the Fit India movement, Eat Right campaign, Poshan Abhiyaan, Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Program and Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Programme.

PM-KISAN

In News:

In the upcoming Budget, the Centre may increase the income support provided to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme from Rs 6,000 to 8,000 rupees/year despite the budget’s primary focus on macroeconomic stability.

Details:

The proposal, in an effort to boost consumption and rural demand, would entail an annual additional cost of around Rs. 22,000 crores to the government.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN):

The number of beneficiaries has crossed 110 million from 31 million at the beginning of the scheme and financial assistance of more than Rs 2 trillion has been provided to needy farmers in over 3 years.

The scheme addressed the liquidity constraints of farmers for buying agricultural inputs, daily consumption, education, health and other incidental expenses, especially during the Covid pandemic.

A Niti Aayog member suggests converting the PM-KISAN program into a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program that covers other vulnerable groups, such as farm labourers, etc.