Ebola – Facts and Fiction

Safety First

Ebola Virus Scare

Ebola Virus Disease, EVD or Ebola as it is now better known is a severe, fatal illness. The outbreak started in remote villages of Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests. The virus transmitted to people from wild animals and then spread through human-to-human transmission. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are said to be natural host of Ebola virus. Severely ill patients need intensive supportive care and no licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for treatment. Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.

Ebola affected the human population through close contact through blood, secretions, organs and other bodily fluids of infected animals. It then spread in communities through human-to-human transmission by direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes through blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people. It indirectly spreads through contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Burial ceremonies also affect mourners who come in direct contact with the body of deceased. Men who recover can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery.

EVD is a severe acute viral illness characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days. No licensed vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids. No specific treatment is available. In the absence of effective treatment, raising awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and recommending protective measures is the only way to reduce human infection.

The disease is causing palpable panic. Ebola outbreak may hit India with passengers arriving from African countries where deaths have been reported due to the disease. With every arrival the situation gets grim. At least twelve persons found to having fever and sore throat associated with Ebola were quarantined at the Airport Health Organization (APHO), a special health centre run by health ministry to screen international passengers for deadly diseases. They have sent passengers blood sample for tests who have also been made to undergo detailed health screening. None seemed to have symptoms of the disease.

State governments too are tracking and monitoring passengers arriving from countries where Ebola outbreaks are being reported. Such passengers are screened through local health facilities and local health authorities ensure follow up on a day-to-day basis for a month.  773 passengers have been tracked this way in Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.  Ebola suspects are made to wear suit and face mask as they deplane. Aircrafts carrying suspected passengers are sequestered and fumigated and luggage of suspects is also isolated.

With due care being taken it remains the responsibility of travelers coming from affected countries to protect themselves from getting affected. The primary means of preventing Ebola involves avoiding direct contact with the body fluid of infected people, as well as anyone who has died from the disease. We all have to be well-prepared to identify and deal with any potential cases of Ebola, though as yet none have been reported in our country. Any patient with suspected symptoms needs to be diagnosed within 24 hours and should be isolated at a dedicated unit to keep the public safe.

Understanding How Ebola May Spread

Ebola – The Source

What Medical Aid Really Means for the Needy

Healing the Poor

Ramtek Medical Camp – Sunday July 13, 2014

The poor in our country follow the health care system offered by state governments. Our Constitution makes it mandatory for States to raise “the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health” as part of its primary duties. But this is hardly happening save for token services. And so alongside the public health sector it is the more popular private medical sector which is actually used more. This is true both in urban and rural settings.

Our public health care sector appears to be for namesake only and it is really true that we do not have enough hospitals, doctors, medical staff, medicines or ambulance services available. We deplorably lack quality of care and accessibility to much needed medical care, especially for the poor. Mostly we are dependent on private medical care that is increasingly getting more unaffordable.

The planning commission which is on its way to being scrapped away soon, was involved in some way to regulate private health care providers. A report it came out with stated that “the transformation of India’s health system to become an effective platform is an evolutionary process that will span several years”. So access to quality medical care remains limited or unavailable especially in most rural areas.

Health issues in rural areas suffer from other maladies as well. Rural children below the age of three are found to be malnourished. Malnourishment is known to impede social and cognitive development of children reducing their educational and employment chances besides irreversibly affecting productivity. This aside we have also to contend with diseases like dengue fever, hepatitis, tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia that are rampant. Poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water are major issue affecting public health.

Rural India continues to live below the poverty line and it struggles for better and easy access to health care services. Having conducted continual health camps all through May to August 2014, HERD Foundation is well aware that health issues confront rural people in diverse forms. Dengue, malaria, uncontrolled diabetes, and badly infected wounds as also cancer are all part of the rural debilitating health scene. But the more serious underlying issue continues to be malnutrition, mother and child ill-health, anemia, sickle cell diseases and now increasingly psychiatric conditions.

Remembering A Young Leader

“Let us build an India proud of her independence; strong, self-reliant in agriculture, industry and Front-rank technology; united by bonds transcending barriers of caste, creed and region; liberated From the bondage of poverty, and of social and economic inequity”.

Remembering Shri Rajiv Gandhi on his Birth Anniversary


Rajiv Gandhi Birth Anniversary – August 20, 1944

Celebrating Mighty Hearts – World Humanitarian Day

Holding Hands

Offering Aid and Assistance

August 19 celebrated as World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to aid workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This year the spotlight of this special day is to look to the people who work in this gray area. 2014 celebrates August 19 by looking at humanitarian heroes, people from different backgrounds who work at the same goal – saving lives and providing the basics of life to the most vulnerable caught in disasters and conflict.

These humanitarians working namelessly and selflessly are your everyday heroes. The world over there is no difference in such people in term of ages, races, genders, religions, beliefs. And although they come from all parts of the world they share a common belief – that people affected by disaster and conflict are entitled to the basics of life – food, water, shelter, protection, and a life of dignity that’s been snatched away by disaster or conflict.

Little attention is paid to volunteers who offer time, sentiments and helping hands. They do work in dangerous situations. The UN has marks this day to honor people who dedicate their lives in making a difference to the lives of victims of disasters. The EU too assists as the world´s largest humanitarian aid donor to support such work that involves helping on-the-spot, organizing logistics, reconstructing infrastructure or training locals.

In the wake of frequent disasters the world recognizes the role of these mighty hearts that extend helping hands at recovery and relief. Be it Haiyan in the Philippines or Sandy in the US, aid and assistance is offered overwhelmingly. Humanitarian heroes came in hundreds from all over to do what they can to bring about assistance and normalcy.  They emit the loud message that no one is alone and stand up to support the crestfallen.

Humanitarians are welcomed and thanked everywhere. But a humanitarian’s life is not easy. These heroes make their own sacrifices as they devote themselves to humanitarian work. They may have left family behind, live uncomfortably and even meagerly for months on end. They survive on their own inner strength to stay in charge. On this World Humanitarian Day HERD Foundation salutes all humanitarians safeguarding the less fortunate and joins in celebrating the spirit of humanitarian work around the world.


Support and Relief

World Needs More Humanists

Our Public Health Scenario

Public Health Service

Public Health Awareness and Promotion

It is a welcome step that the state government is amending the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) Act of 1965 to now make it mandatory for undergraduate and post graduate medical students to serve the one year bond compulsorily. Earlier students got away from compulsory rural service by paying bond money. This new amendment ensures students passing out of Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) will really serve in rural areas as per the bond.

This decision will be important to strengthen rural health services by ensuring presence of physicians and specialists in rural and district hospitals. Our public health is one of the most important sectors that needs to be revamped with diligence and foresight. We have neglected it for long and we should be reckoning our bearings especially since our HDI ranks lower than neighboring countries in two main social development sectors – health and education.

Public health service essentially differs from medical service in as much as the former has to reduce the population’s exposure to disease. This is done by managing health regulations through vector control, monitoring waste disposal, water systems, health education as also efforts at improving personal health behaviors. The latter is now increasingly being taken up by NGOs who are also building up citizen’s demand for better public health outcomes.

Responsible public health services can facilitate economic growth as also diminish poverty by creating healthy environments. For instance, because of lack of hygiene measures malaria continues to riddle us especially in rural areas. There are complexities in our malaria eradication programme. The continuous application of DDT has not proven to be effective as we all know that DDT is not effectual for malaria eradication due to increased resistance of malaria mosquitoes. Despite a worldwide ban of DDT we continue to use it.

Or for that matter take up the issue of over population. It is true that we have segregated our family planning programme from public health programme primarily due to myopic public opinion and a political culture that does not permit to work against public opinion. However limiting family size is an important public health issue that is a cause of grave concern. As rational development oriented people we should be addressing our population issue with our eyes wide open. USAID has been helping us tackle the issue in our more populated states and the methodology is worth emulating.

Rural PHC

Rural Arogya Kendra

Yale or No Yale – We Do Need Educated Politicians

We Do Need Educated Politicians

We Do Need Educated Politicians

The HRD minister may be very versatile and articulate, but a six-day Yale Leadership Program cannot ‘educate’ you. At best it will share information on how to be a proactive leader. God may have created the world in six days but no politician worth his salt may proclaim to be adept in statecraft in a matter of six days!!  Be that as it may, we do need educated politicians and there is no denying the fact that only handfuls are really educated.

The fact of the matter is that there should be a level of education for public servants and wannabe leaders. For a law minister to be able to take rightful decisions he or she must have the requisite in-depth knowledge to be able to understand the nuances and implications of what is constitutional and what is not. National level politicians must know world geography, some national and international history besides names of world leaders!

‘We don’t need no education’ – will not do anymore! The youth today look ahead and want good and educated people in politics to run the country better. Whatever may be the cause espoused by a party or politician he/she must at least have an academic background and the right bent of professional approach for whatever department they may head. Wouldn’t you feel better already if a doctor of medicine was the health minister?

An educated person can look at a certain issue from various perspectives. Politicians have control over large communities therefore they need some extra ordinary skills and the first thing which can make them distinguished are their qualifications. Education increases communication and speaking skills. A politician is a social member and his interactions with people are frequent. This is why proper education will play an important role in his bearing.

For long now have we have allowed some ministerial portfolios to run the traditional way. Neo literates have been following systems procedurally, without perfect knowledge of the purpose and origin of the office they head. It is essential that leaders at least understand their office and see how it fits into the larger scheme and flow of government as a whole. Certainly educated politicians will make things work more effectively.


Educated Politicians

Report Cards Are Essential


12 August – International Youth Day

International Youth Day

12 August designated as International Youth Day by UN General Assembly

United Nations earmarked August 12 as International Youth Day. This year’s theme “Youth and Mental Health” for this special day follows the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’. Youth with mental health conditions do experience discrimination that leads to exclusion. Often this discourages them to seek help, more so for fear of being ‘labeled’ negatively.

Efforts are on to overcome such stigma and ensure that young people with issues can lead healthy lives free of isolation or shame. They are to be encouraged to openly seek the services and support available. HERD Foundation is all set to be part of such efforts. Our focus has always been for youth development and this input will be promoted through approaches that address challenges faced by young people.

HERD Foundation wants to reach out to youth with mental health issues and others to tackle stigma and promote social inclusion of all young people to achieve their aspirations and goals. International Youth Day is a time to reinforce our pledge to bring youth issues to the attention of all and celebrate the potential of youth as promising partners in today’s global society.

This annual celebration of role of young women and men as essential partners in change, sees HERD Foundation take on opportunities to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships facing the youth. We have promoted sports events as a way to assist the youth in overcoming limitations. The thematic campaign has encouraged the general public to understand the needs of young people. We need to also implement policies to help them overcome the challenges they face and to get young people into decision-making processes.

Nearly half of all people in the world today are under the age of 25. Effectively addressing the special needs of  youth is a critical challenge for the future. Especially the youth between ages 15 – 24 make up for over one sixth of the world’s population. However they are seldom recognized as a distinct group for the critical role will play in shaping the future. Add to this the fact that countless youth lack education, skills and job training, employment opportunities, and health services. This effectively limits their future at a very early age.

HERD Foundation reacts to such apathy by first including the youth in societal context as important assets for the economic, political, and social life of their communities.


Youth Day Celebrations

International Youth Day – August 12, 2014

August 9, International Day of Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples Logo

International Day for World Indigenous Peoples Logo

“The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed… Together, let us recognize and celebrate the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations. “

~~ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

August 9, demarcated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was proclaimed as such by UN General Assembly that set aside the day for the well being of the world’s indigenous peoples. The second decade of this special day celebrates the thematic aspiration “A Decade for Action and Dignity.” This year’s focus aims at “Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”.

The first “World Conference on Indigenous Peoples” will be held on 22-23 September 2014. The meeting will be an opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The objective of this year’s theme will highlight the importance of implementing the rights of indigenous peoples through policies and programmes at both the national and international level.

HERD Foundation recognizes the importance of Article 366 (25) under Constitution of India, that defines our indigenous peoples as “such tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342”. Article 342 prescribes the procedure for specification of a scheduled tribe that offers the oft-used criterion to identify such indigenous groups based on attributes like –

  • Geographical isolation – tribes living in cloistered, exclusive, remote and inhospitable areas such as hills and forests.
  • Backwardness – their livelihoods based on primitive agriculture, low-value closed economy with a low level of technology leading to poverty, and having low levels of literacy and health.
  • Distinctive culture, language and religion – communities have developed their own distinctive culture, language and religion.
  • Shyness of contact – having a marginal degree of contact with other cultures and people.

The Gond tribes settled in our parts comprise of the dominant tribal populations and they used to be largely concentrated in the hilly, forested tracts of the state. Gradually however our tribal people are being absorbed and are being included in urban mainstream population. There are said to be about 50 sub-groups of Gond tribes that inhabit much of the central parts of our country. They are known to be of Dravidian lineage linguistically and racially are said to belong to Proto-australoid stock.

The Gonds migrated in Central provinces from the south through Chanda and Bastar in 14th century where they established the Gond kingdom. The present city of Nagpur was founded at the beginning of the 18th century by the Gond Raja, Bakht Buland. They were warriors but are now tillers and animal grazers. They remain largely subjugated to low status and rural populations remain isolated.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs set up in 1999 after the bifurcation of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment provides a focused approach on the integration of indigenous peoples of India with a view to develop their socio-economic positioning. The tribal departments are all working in a coordinated and planned manner to implement the overall policy, planning and coordination of programmes for development of ST’s. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs remains the nodal Ministry for the welfare and activities for the development of indigenous peoples of India.

Tilling the Land

The Gonds Today

The Euphoria of Sports, Games & Competition

Colorful Flags Flying High

The Fun Of It All

“…it is now possible …to create a world where everybody shall have a reasonable chance of happiness.”

Bertrand Russell may have written these lines in a different context, but for HERD Foundation they ring true in our attempt to organize sports events for two rural districts of Nagpur – just for the fun of it all!  Realizing that this mainstay extracurricular activity of city bred people needed to be extended to allow a sense of enjoyment for rural populace too, Dr Amol Deshmukh planned a series of sporting events that brought enthusiastic teams in the fray.

It is very true that sports are to be enjoyed to bring on the feel good factor. They help develop excitement for living it up for something much more than beyond the ordinary normalcy of everyday life. Offering a great diversion for some part of your time, they help you forget about the rigors of life and give you joy for a little while. Yes sports do have a happy impact on your psyche and sustain your tame existence.

Games in all honesty are a healing factor uniting people for a common passion. It has been interesting to make note of the manner in which the teams have been practicing for various events, egged on by vigilant sports teachers. Our coaches have been offering guidance and instructions for understanding the rules of the games. Even the general onlookers rooting for the teams offer a sense of exhilaration, which is a pleasure to watch.

We love how the competitions have developed a fan following for HERD Premier League or HPL in the region.  It’s great to see the youth look forward to something that is so simple and so good for them. Besides getting their minds off the daily grind of life these games have become a symbol for something much deeper – developing a sense of strength and purpose to prevail on their minds.

This euphoria that HERD Foundation has injected in the youth has created good interaction and better connections among people who perhaps otherwise would never have met up. They have been instrumental in projecting good, clean fun besides opening up a world of sporting fun. If only for sometime HPL Sports do act as a bonding element to bring the youth together to have a moment of unadulterated happiness.

The Fun Times

The Pursuit of Happiness

Skilling Anew – Women to the Fore

Parseoni is a smallish Taluka town in Nagpur District. There’s a sense of quietude here that leaves you wondering what all the city rush is all about. It would almost be akin to the land of the lotus eaters. The tranquil haze of a rain drenched day with monsoon greenery in full play has you wondering what could be wrong with this idyllic environment.

Well wrong there is. It’s only after a while that you realise that life here is like gnats buzzing together round and round in circles, billowing up and down in a cloud, with the wind. You have no where to go. Eat, sleep and get up to another typical day that offers nothing new. Life in cyclic routine, living the same old life leaves the young ones feeling especially woebegone.

The start to a sewing training programme for young women creates quite a stir in town. Groups of females walk down the 11/2 km stretch of road outside the town to reach the venue. They show keenness to try there hand at learning a craft. Anything that will make them earn some supplemental income. With no jobs and nothing on the horizon by way of self employment, it is the service sector perhaps that has a chance to take off. So learning skills becomes essential.

The motley group of college girls, young married women and even middle aged housewives enjoyed the camaraderie of spending time in the company of trainers who were teaching them stitching craft. Each of the five groups sat on pedal foot machines to exhibit their skills on a sewing machine even as the others watched patiently for the craft items to take shape.

We are overwhelmed by this enthusiastic response. Women prove that they are open to learning and re-learning. Or even un-learning at times. Things that they used to do in a particular ways earlier, have changed tack and they learn ways to do things anew. This awareness and openminded-ness appears to be a good sign. A sign of the times to come.