In 2020, Lalita Boipai, a rural healthcare worker, was conducting tests with malaria kits in her village, Bera Kundrijor, as part of a government survey. She, however, was not prepared for its findings. “Surprised at the zero cases of malaria in my report, I got nervous thinking it would raise questions from the higher authorities,” she told me. “Out of panic, I reported two-three fake cases.”
Bera Kundrijor is one of the 62 villages in the Noamundi block of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. The district is highly vulnerable to a malaria endemic. According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program, Jharkhand reported 37,133 malaria cases in 2019—in which West Singhbhum alone reported 9,077 cases, the highest in the state. In 2020, the cases in Jharkhand came down to 16,655.
Astounded by the zero malaria cases, Boipai ascribed it to the “malaria kadha” drive in her village. Malaria kadha is a syrup made from locally available forest-based herbs to provide immunity against mosquito bites. Adivasi women groups prepare this kadha at the beginning of each monsoon season, which gets distributed among the villagers—the prescribed dose is half-a-glass for three days on an empty stomach. The kadha has become increasingly popular in the area.