MSSRF & BMGF collaborate to improve tribal health in Koraput district, Odisha
A new project: ‘Sustainable Community-Led Intervention for Tribal Health Resilience in two blocks of Koraput district’, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), was launched during an event held on January 9, at MSSRF’s Biju Patnaik Tribal Agro-biodiversity Centre, Jeypore. Community champions or Gaggad Sathsi, tribal women, and several community representatives interacted with the State Government officials from health department during the inaugural meeting. The event raised awareness about the project objectives and intended results, while also offering a space for joint initiative with the Health department, MSSRF and tribal people of Koraput.
Surjyakant Behera, DD Strategy and Planning, Health Department, Government of Odisha, was the Chief Guest. Chairperson of MSSRF – Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Dr Maya Mascarenhas – Pediatrician and a Community Health Specialist, Mr Prashant K Parida – Director i/c BPTAbC were the honorable guests on the dais. The inaugural lighting of the lamp was performed by the delegates and Gaggad Sathis.
Highlighting the mission and work of BPTAbC during his introductory remarks, Prashant recalled that Koraput was declared a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) region in 2012 because the agroecosystem is inhabited by tribal communities who live in an intricate relationship with the environment. He reminded the audience that the late Prof M S Swaminathan was instrumental is getting Koraput the recognition, and MSSRF has always worked with conserving biological diversity as a major priority.
Dr Asit Mansingh, presented a brief overview of the project and spoke about the sustainability approach taken up for community health and wellness. He explained the inspirational area of operations, the challenges that need to be addressed, and also introduced the local government officials and the project staff to everyone.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan address the gathering speaking on the importance of community participation for successful outcomes of the project. She noted that awareness and understanding about health should we widespread at the grassroots, and iterated that communities should be able to grasp the water-sanitation linkage to nutrition and health. She added that the impact of climate change on health including water-borne diseases, excessive heat, malaria, Dengue, Diarrhea, etc., will need to be tackled.
Dr Surjyakant Behera said that the project can have a ripple effect beyond the two blocks of Koraput District, and assured his support and co-operation towards MSSRF.
Other Government official shared their experiences, and spoke of challenges that need to be managed to achieve better health among tribal communities.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.