Red Aid India: Towards a future free of NTDs

By Sheeba Feroz

Sept. 11, 2020

Red Aid India is an online campaign initiated to create awareness about the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and their consequences such as disability and social exclusion leveraging the power of new media. Social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, and a dedicated website will be in place to disseminate greater awareness on NTDs and the suffering caused by them with heart touching and human-interest stories.

Red Aid India not only aims to engage in advocacy and improve knowledge around NTDs but it entails involving the common man in the elimination of the diseases by end of this decade. Red Aid stands as an opportunity to engage and empower young minds to partake in the fight against NTDs. Thus, the Red Aid India campaign will enhance knowledge around NTDs through social media; engage and inspire youth to take an immediate call to action against NTDs; attract individuals, institutions, government, non-profits and like-minded organizations, philanthropist to partner and contribute towards the vision of a world free of NTDs.

NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect more than 1.7 billion of the world's most impoverished people, including more than 1 billion children. The reason why NTDs are called neglected because they generally affect the world's poorest and marginalized communities, and historically have not received much attention compared to other diseases. India, the second-most populous country in the world, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the global population, is also home to the world's largest absolute burden of at least 11 major NTDs.

These diseases have serious consequences for maternal and child health as well. They lead to malnutrition and anaemia, which prevent children from growing and learning and stop women from having healthy pregnancies. They weaken the immune system and increase the risk that mothers and their children will become infected with other serious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

Given this grim scenario, DAHW Deutsche Lepra- und Tuberkulosehilfe e. V., the parent organization of GLRA India based in Wurzburg, Germany, has introduced the Red Aid India campaign to reach the new tech-savvy audience to extend its scope of work. It will serve as an effective platform to spread awareness about NTDs among the potential stakeholders and individuals and organizations attract corporate donors, like-minded not-for-profit organizations, activist-philanthropist committed to ending poverty-related diseases.

The vulnerable and marginalized communities that are impacted by NTDs and their consequences such as disability and social exclusion are at an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 as well. This highly contagious virus can rapidly spread in these communities where it may be difficult to implement the most effective measures for prevention such as hand washing and social distancing. They lack access to effective surveillance, early warning system, and health services; thus, are likely to suffer more complications because of pre-existing chronic health conditions prevailing in the communities. In case of complications, weak and overburdened health systems are unlikely to cope. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are critical in the control and prevention of NTDs as well as prevention from COVID-19 outbreak but the absence of risk communication and community engagement makes them vulnerable to emergencies.

Hence, Red Aid India becomes a timely intervention to shed light on such prevailing issues. Apart from advocacy, spreading awareness about NTDs and their consequences, Red Aid India will prove to be fruitful in attracting resources and contributions from individuals, institutions and corporates that are committed to improving health outcomes, especially for the poorest of the poor. In times of COVID-19, preventive healthcare and strengthened healthcare system for the marginalized is the need of the hour.

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