Sharad Sharma and Sarah Iqbal |
India is at the forefront of the global epidemic of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Studies estimate that 58,000 newborns in India die each year due to infections caused by resistant superbugs. There are currently 700,000 deaths worldwide due to antibiotic resistance (a subset of AMR) and are expected to increase to 10 million by 2050, more deaths than cancer! Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon exhibited by microbes wherein they can resist the toxic effects of antibiotics. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics by us has accelerated the development of antibiotic resistance. The Superheroes Against Superbugs programme emphasises the need for the general public to become superheroes as much as we need our scientists and medical professionals to fight this century’s biggest health threat, by improving scientific understanding of antibiotic resistance so that appropriate measures can be taken at an individual and community level.
At our workshops, we engage with young children on antibiotic resistance through fun and creative hands-on activities, empowering them in the process with knowledge around the issue. These children are then encouraged to weave their own stories around the issue and express their thoughts through the powerful medium of grassroots comics. The children are not only equipped with all the information they need of the problem but are also empowered to narrate their own stories through their own creative work giving them a sense of ownership and excitement, which acts as stimulus for further engagement.
Some of the issues covered in these workshops are; dangers associated with stopping antibiotics mid-course, using antibiotics for viral infections, popping antibiotics without doctor’s consultation, environmental pollution with industrial dumping of antibiotics, use of antibiotics in poultry and dairy, and the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
In the pilot programme, sixty school children from Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions (TSWREIS), Gowlidoddi and Global Edge School, Hyderabad, participated in these workshops and worked with Sharad Sharma, founder of World Comics India, to weave stories around concepts of antibiotic resistance that were artistically conveyed using the medium of grassroots comics. Public health researcher, Dr Rashmi Rodrigues in collaboration with World Comics India conducted grassroots comics workshops for school and medical students in Bangalore. In Delhi, these workshops were organized on the side lines of an exhibition titled “Superbugs: The end of Antibiotics?” showcased at the National Science Centre.
We have compiled selected comics from these workshops here. These comics are being used by our young superheroes who are on a mission to spread awareness and initiate a conversation on the issue of antibiotic resistance in their schools, colleges and local communities. Because they, like us, believe that together we can stop the superbugs!