Since 2018, Vodafone Foundation UK has been funding Lepra’s project work in Bihar, raising awareness about hydrocele, identifying men affected by it and supporting them through their journey to surgery and rehabilitation. In the first two years, 1,703 men underwent hydrocelectomy surgery, and convinced of its benefits, Bihar’s government is scaling up interventions across the region.
It is the success of the third and current year of the intervention that is overshadowing past success. Since July 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the project still identified an additional 2,959 affected men with hydrocele, and a total of 1,430 hydrocelectomies have been facilitated in the first 9 months of the project. All surgeries were a success and patients were able to restart their lives as disability free men at home, at work and in social events.
The key components of success was the continuation of health system strengthening, and raising awareness about available government financial support.
In Munger, nearly 450 surgeries have been performed over the last 10 months, thanks to the successful training of health care professionals and advocacy by the Bihar team.
The Lepra Bihar team and senior level health officials, including the Civil Surgeon and the District Filariasis Officer, conducted a training session for 19 clinicians working in operating theatres in the District. Further advocacy efforts by the team resulted in decision makers allocating one day a week for free hydrocelectomies in the district hospital and primary health centres in Munger, making hydrocelectomies more widely available and accessible.
Following the training, the project conducted Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities in Munger, resulting in another 89 patients being registered and referred for hydrocelectomies.
The Mobilising Men's Health project is due to come to an end in June 2021, and as the figures show, has made a substantial impact to thousands of lives so far. One such person was Rajneet Kumar, a 32 year old man who lives in Munger with his wife, little girl, and his mother. Rajneet provides all the household income and supports the entire family for food and other day to day living expenses.
Rajneet initially thought that hydrocele was an injury caused by cycling, and therefore sought help with traditional healers. Prescribed medicines did not work, and the fear of surgery deterred him from seeking help from a government hospital. Combine this with the COVID-19 pandemic and financial woes that followed, Rajneet was beginning to contemplate suicide.
A Lepra Community Mobiliser visited Rajneet's district, and Rajneet decided to approach him. Rajneet was educated on the true cause of hydrocele and how best to treat it. Rajneet was soon referred for hydrocelectomy surgery at a private hospital and was only charged for the prescribed medication.
"Thank you for giving me a reason to live, and for giving me a healthy life"
After one week recovery at the hospital and a few extra days at home, Rajneet was able to return to his work and daily activities. After seven long years, Rajneet is finally able to lead a healthy, normal life and is incredibly grateful for the work of this project.