By: Nabita Sharma, RTI International in Nepal
February 5, 2012 - It was a bright and sunny morning in Biratnagar in Morang District. Everyone was excited and a little nervous. It was the first time ever that the Government of Nepal had held a campaign there to distribute medicines to control and eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) through mass drug administration (MDA). Health teams from the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), World Health Organization (WHO) and RTI International (RTI) were all preparing for the days’ events and in attendance at the morning’s inaugural launch.
People from the community also gathered for the festivities. Nabita Sharma, an observer from RTI International providing support for the MDA with funding from USAID saw a man and his son sitting in the corner looking frightened. She saw that the father was suffering from LF, evident by his swollen leg (elephantiasis) and went to talk to them.
About fourteen years ago, Dilip Bhagat moved to Biratnagar with his wife, two sons and one daughter. The place was new to him. He worked seasonal jobs and managed to feed his family. After living in Biratnagar for four years, he started to feel pain in his calf and had frequent fevers. He took analgesic tablets to relieve the pain, but it only lasted for a few hours. Gradually his leg started to swell. He could not work because of pain.
Dilip showed Nabita his swollen leg. He said that someone from the District Public Health Office had come to tell him about the MDA today. He was hopeful the medicines would help but he was also worried. He had heard that people can die if they take the drugs. He had been told that if a person has LF he or she could have side effects from the drugs. His son continued, “I am studying now. I have two brothers and one sister. What will happen if something bad happens to my father?” Nabita invited Dr. Krishna Shah, the Medical Officer, to talk to both father and son about their concerns. He explained, “Today we are administering 2 drugs together, albendazole and DEC to control and eliminate LF. The medicine DEC may cause side effects, like nausea, headache and dizziness in people who are infected with LF but these are minor and are nothing to be afraid of. More importantly, the drugs will help slow the progress of the disease in your father and help prevent it from further damaging the affected areas of the body.” Talking to the boy, he said “It’s important that you and other members of your family take the medicines too. They will reduce transmission of the parasite that causes LF, preventing the spread of the disease and protecting the rest of your family from ever having to face the same suffering from elephantiasis, like your father has had to endure all these years.” After considering all they had learned, Dilip and his son decided to participate in the MDA and take the medicines.
A year later, when Nabita went to Biratnagar for the annual LF MDA, she went looking for Dilip Bhagat. What she found brought her great happiness. He was having lunch in his new vegetable shop. When he saw her, he too was happy. He said that the drugs had given him new life. Not only had the medicines relieved him from pain, but the instructed home care helped the swelling in his leg to decrease. He was able to open this vegetable shop and support his family. He thanked the organizers of the MDA for providing him such relief and peace in knowing his children would never have to suffer from LF and elephantiasis. He and his family members would all participate in the MDA this year.
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