Assam Cancer Care Foundation organises Cancer Awareness Camp

The annual Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha festival at Morigao in Assam, which attractred lakhs of devotees proved an ideal occasion to spread awareness about tobacco and cancer

BACKGROUND

Morigaon is an administrative district in Assam with an area of 1,704 km² and a population of 957,853 (as of 2011) of which males and females are 485,328 and 472,525 respectively. The Tiwa (Lalung) and Keot (Kaibarta), both of them indigenous Assamese communities, form the majority in this district.

Srimanta Sankaradeva, an important personality in the annals of Indian history, was not only a religious preceptor, but also a social reformer, who had Sanskritized the ethnic groups of the volatile North East India and assimilated them into the national mainstream. He is considered as the father of the modern Assamese race. He was a great messiah, who rescued the people of Brahmaputra valley from regressive medieval practices like human sacrifice.

The annual Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha festival is held every year in a different part of Assam. It's the largest socio-cultural-religious organisation in Northeast India. People from hundreds of kilometres away come to celebrate this festival and attend the seminars, meetings, conferences and other educational and cultural activities that are organised.

Morigaon was selected as the host district for the Annual Conference, which had become a veritable pilgrimage spot, drawing a large number of visitors from far and near. Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF) had initiated and organized an awareness camp on Oral, Breast and Cervical Cancer in collaboration with National Service Scheme, Srimanta Sankardev Sangha – the largest Faith Base Organisation  in Assam and District Tobacco Control Cell (DTCC, Morigaon from 6 to 9 February, 2019, at Sahityarathi Lakshmi Bezbarua Samanwai Khetra of Nowkata -Sidhabari - Barangabari.

OBJECTIVE

The main objective of this awareness camp was to sensitise the people gathered for the festival by distributing leaflets on oral, breast and cervical cancer, awareness talks and making the entire area a “tobacco-free zone”.

This cancer awareness camp was first cancer awareness event in such a massive festive gathering. The estimate footfall was over 20 lakh.

PROGRAM OUTPUT

ACCF created awareness among lakhs of people about oral, breast and cervical cancer at the 88th Annual Conference of Sankardev Sangha in Morigaon district. This was for the first time in the history of Assam state that such a large number of people were made aware about this disease. The awareness camp at the festival was taken positively by the people who had arrived for the festival from all across Assam and and even outside the state.

During the four-day event organised from February 6 to 9, ACCF sensitised the visitors about the importance of screening for common cancers after the age of 30, while raising awareness about the health hazards that are caused by consuming tobacco.

Diverse strategies were planned to reach out to an expected gathering of approximately 20 lakh people, with the highlight being a tableau of a 3D model of a health and wellness centre and a tobacco-free school. In collaboration with District Tobacco Control Cell  a zone' was created by youth volunteers where 200 signage were displayed at different locations of the conference area. 

Awareness kiosks were placed at 20 different places at the conference area, distributing informative leaflets. In the four-day session, 150 NSS volunteers from Morigaon, Jagi Road and Mayong College participated in the awareness campaign and the cultural procession. A talk show on cancer witnessed encouraging participation from rural and urban youngsters.

The cancer awareness part of the mega event was published across 58 print and online media across the North-East India and few other states outside.

CHALLENGES

  • Organising the manpower to cover 40 acres of area with banners and standees for awareness and no-tobacco messages
  • Arranging for cash constantly in an area deprived of ATMs and connectivity
  • Dealing with issues related to remoteness including lack of local awareness and colleagues well acquainted with the cause
  • Managing the scale of a program with a limited principal team to facilitate the processes
  • Being in touch with the organisers to help address issues relating to schedule and location
  • Mobilising the local authorities including the District Tobacco Control Cell and Police Headquarters for enforcement
  • Hotel accommodation with proper facilities

LEARNINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Clear planning of operations and finance
  • Constant engagement with stakeholders
  • Collaboration with authorities with explicit terms and conditions from both parties
  • Community driven by engaging with local leadership and citizenry
  • Empowering institutions by showcasing the benefits of the scale of work
  • Have surplus money for on-hand expenditure, if operating in a remote area
  • Dust-mask and sun screen for the on-ground team

FEEDBACK

Babul Bora, Chief Secretary and the Secretary of Reception Committee of Sri Srimanta Sankara Sangha, said, "The ACCF has taken the initiative to make the 88th Srimanta Sankara Sangha Conference in Morigaon tobacco-free and it has been implemented effectively with the iad of youth volunteers and government officials. The Sangha appreciates the efforts of ACCF to raise awareness on tobacco and cancer during all the 4-day conference. The Sangha will continue to work with the ACCF for cancer awareness in Assam. The youth volunteers of Seva Vahini will be actively working on this front as well."

The NSS Program Officer of Morigaon College said, “NSS Unit has participated in the anti-Cancer Awareness drive during the Srimanta Shankardev Sangha conference in Morigaon on 7th and 8th February, 2019. The Programme was organised and led by Assam Cancer Care Foundation. The NSS Volunteers, under the leadership of NSS programme officer Ranjan Timsina and professors Kalita Medhi, Meenakshi Tamuli, Bijay Medhi and Abhiram Sarkar took part in programmes like distribution of leaflets, procession, awareness programme, anti-tobacco campaign etc. The drive has helped the people a great deal in understanding the causes and remedies of cancer disease and had helped us to understand the current scenario of common cancers in Assam, it's possible causes. Moreover, we learned about the laws related to tobacco control.”

TOP