OVER the past month and a half, only 18% of registered tuberculosis (TB) patients have been adopted under Ni-kshay Mitra Center’s new voluntary program, which has been spear on September 9 to sponsor rations for tuberculosis patients in need. Finding sponsors has become a daunting task for the program, so government officials are stepping in to fill the void.
Maharashtra has one of the highest numbers of TB cases with 1,48,273 registered patients undergoing treatment. As of October 23, 114,006 patients have consented to receive treatment under the National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP).
Till October 23, about 20,700 of the patients have been adopted by 2,324 sponsors in Maharashtra. Only 1,508 sponsors (65%) are individuals. This is followed by 270 sponsors in the “Other” category, which includes bureaucrats and government officials, among others. Then come the NGOs with 264 of them as sponsors.
Meanwhile, only 77 elected officials and 72 political parties have adopted TB patients in the state, representing just 6.4% of the total number of adoptions from Ni-kshay Mitra. Apart from that, 62 representatives of enterprises and institutions adopted such patients.
“Most of the responses come from NGOs and individuals. There are not as many takers from the community as we anticipated,” a state health department official said. “As this is a voluntary program, we cannot force anyone to do this,” the official added.
The Union Government provides Rs 500 per month to TB patients for diet. But as the amount is not enough, the Ni-kshay Mitra program has been launched under which volunteers can sponsor a food basket worth Rs 700. The basket includes cereals, 3 kg of millet, 1.5 kg pulses, vegetable oil, groundnuts and milk among which the others. Additionally, micronutrients such as vitamins and mineral supplements may also be included.
However, as the program has received a lukewarm response, government officials are stepping in to adopt TB patients. For example, in the area under Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) of the 51 sponsors, 25 are PMC officials. Similarly, in Amravati out of the 46 Ni-kshay Mitras, 12 are government officials.
“We will hold a meeting with the collector and the CEO to discuss the matter and give instructions to government officials to adopt more TB patients under the scheme,” said Dr Ramesh Bansod, TB Officer in Amravati.
Ni-kshay Mitras can help tuberculosis patients for a period of six months to three years with their nutritional needs and medications. According to data collected by The Indian Expressmost sponsors (48%) opted for six months of adoption, 47.8% took one year of sponsorship and only 3% opted for three years.
“We are calling on elected officials and businesses to come forward and provide a nutritious diet to patients, which will help their speedy recovery,” a health department official said.
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