Striving for the better health status of tribal communities has been at the heart of Sangwari’s work. Following media reports of excessive deaths in the Pando Community, Sangwari was asked by the Joint Director, Health of Surguja division to independently investigate root causes of these deaths. It brought out many learnings about insufficient data about the health status of vulnerable communities, poor delivery of health services and basic entitlements.
We identified scrub typhus as a potential cause in some of the deaths due to febrile illness. Scrub typhus was not suspected by treating doctors as a cause of fevers and testing for it was not available in the public health system. We presented the findings to the Honorable Health Minister of Chhattisgarh and the Joint Director, Health of the division of Surguja. Following our Report, blood tests for scrub typhus were made available at the District Hospital in Ambikapur.
In the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sangwari trained volunteers from Pando community to identify and refer severe cases of COVID-19 to the health facilities in a timely manner and in first aid and primary health care. We received an invite to join the National Dialogue ‘SAMVAD’ on Tribal Health and Evaluation of Health Systems in the Scheduled areas by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes in New Delhi. The investigation following excessive deaths in the Pando community brought out many systemic issues we wanted to voice on a national platform. Sangwari attended the event and also took with them seven leaders from particularly vulnerable tribal groups from Chattisgarh, namely Pando, Pahadi Korwa, Kamar, Birhor, Abujh Madia, Baiga and Bhunjiya. We were elated to see all the grassroots leaders making their case at this National gathering. Sangwari hopes to continue this solidarity to empower our fellow tribal leaders.