Mossa is Oriya for "mosquito". It is a word I have been hearing a lot lately. Since Annie Heslop arrived in Koraput, we have been very busy. She is a professional photographer from London who has been working with SOVA for a long time now. One day she heard about this area and realised she could help. She contacted Sanjeet (SOVA's CEO) and, after eight years, a lot of fundraising and many great pictures, here she is. Another year and another project: tackling malaria. Not a disease that people usually associate with India. When I thought about malaria, Africa and heat and jungles instantly came to my mind. Not India. India is about poverty and misery and cholera and maybe HIV/AIDS. But malaria? Well, as it turned out when I had to prepare for my journey, malaria is highly prevalent in the area and anti-malaria tablets were a must. I was not too sure about it, as when I went to Thailand these had also been recommended yet not necessarily required. And no one really hears about malaria in India, right? The reality of Orissa is different and the numbers are daunting. Although its population consists of only a 3% of India’s total, it contributes to about a 50% of reported deaths due to malaria in the country. Here is a great video that Annie produced.
There are three types of malaria. Two of them are widespread around our area, one of them being cerebral malaria. It can kill in 6 days if left untreated. It can also be prevented with the right tools. As our coworker said yesterday “We should buy the umbrella before it rains”. This is what Annie has been doing in cooperation with SOVA. She went back to England and managed to raise $35,000 in order to buy mosquito nets. Now, we are distributing these and helping to educate the tribes around Koraput. Some do not even know what malaria is. They do not know that the mosquito bites at night. They do not know that the disease spreads through mosquitoes.
The other day we went to Pottangi, which is the third worst affected area in the district. We found three people suffering from high fevers. One of them was a little girl. She could barely sit up. It was heart breaking. When we talked to the father, he told us he could not afford to take her to hospital because he had to work. Her mother had died a year ago after high fevers and delirium symptoms (cerebral malaria). She had bad luck. That is how they justified it. They do not know and malaria keeps taking lives. I had not been to this area before and I felt very sad and touched by these people who were so grateful for the work we were doing. It was tough but rewarding and enriching. I am happy. Happy to be able to help and do something about it.