Improving Community Health and Environment in Odisha and South Andaman

Madhuri Mondal, Shalini Das, Biswa Swaroop Das, Kartik Shanker

Collaborators: Blue Ventures

Sites : Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Given the importance of health and livelihoods, scoping and needs assessment studies were undertaken in Odisha and South Andaman in 2019 to initiate the health and environment programme in these sites. Following the scoping studies, we have selected two fishing villages in each site for our integrated interventions. The studies have revealed multiple issues related to community health and environmental degradation in these sites. In Odisha, we found that access to healthcare is insufficient, hygiene and sanitation is very poor and awareness of sexual and reproductive health is also minimal. Other prevalent issues are the lack of proper diet, nutrition and alcoholism. Reduction in fish catch and dwindling livelihoods have forced many individuals to migrate for work in the mechanized fishing sector. There are other natural and anthropogenic stressors on the coastal ecosystem like coastal erosion, encroachment of coastal commons and large scale aquaculture.

The sites in South Andaman are different from each other in terms of the communities which reside there. The Wandoor community is a Bengali settler community, which also engages in other livelihoods such as tourism and plantation apart from fishing. Whereas the Telugu fishing community in Junglighat is a comparatively new settlement and primarily consists of migrants from the state of Andhra Pradesh who mostly depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Skin disorders and non-communicable diseases like hypertension and diabetes are common in both the sites. Awareness regarding health issues is poor in Junglighat which has a high population density and lacks proper sanitation. Improvement in waste management practices in both these sites is of immediate concern.

Through the health and environment programme, we plan to conduct awareness workshops for different focus groups comprising women, men, and adolescent girls of the community to sensitize them on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), sexual and reproductive health (SRH), diet and nutrition. We plan to train community health workers (CHW) to work on community health issues and advocate for better access to healthcare. We plan to engage stakeholders in monitoring environmental health parameters. This will help the community develop a local environment management plan to address issues of waste management, water pollution and other environmental challenges that also have health implications. Monitoring and improving environmental health will also generate a sense of stewardship in the community towards their local ecosystems and overall wellbeing. We plan to conduct training programme for fishworker organizations and facilitate discussions on sustainable fisheries governance.

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