India, April 4, 2020: In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown on midnight of March 24, 2020, stating that “every State, every district, every lane, every village” will stay home for three weeks. The novel coronavirus that started in China has impacted countries across the globe, including India.
In order to spread awareness and protect rural India from the outbreak of coronavirus, Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) launched some interventions as per the guidelines instituted WHO and the Ministry of Healthcare, Govt. of India.
The health team of ACF has been at the forefront during this critical time in creating awareness about COVID-19 in its core villages. Listed below are the interventions.
Village Lockdown Mode
While city officials are taking grave steps to control the spread, villagers are taking stringent action by closing their gates for individuals coming from any external location. These steps were taken after being educated about the virus by ACF health teams during the initial phase and orders from the local authorities.
In a few villages, community areas are also being approached with social distancing techniques. Areas outside community water pumps have been cordoned off with white boxes so that people distance themselves and do not crowd in such areas. The health functionaries are teaching people how to maintain social distancing by drawing circles outside shops and community areas.
The villages look almost deserted with barely any beneficiary stepping out of their homes unless there is a need.
Sakhis i.e. women health workers trained by ACF are working closely with local health authorities to identify migrant workers returning home to have their health check-ups done. Sakhis are moving door to door and educating on social distancing and providing awareness about the importance of handwashing.
They are also conducting daily follow-ups to check if any symptoms have been appearing. ACF has also provided a temperature measuring meter at each block level healthcare centre for the screening of suspected cases.
Self Help Groups
As per the local needs and advice, a few Panchayats and even medical chemists approached Self Help Groups (SHGs) of ACF to make health masks. These were sold to individuals, medical centres and transported to health centres. Over 20,000 health masks have been distributed across locations and vehicle announcements were made in the villages.
One member from each SHG is circulating emergency numbers of the local health authorities to each member in case of any health issues or suspected cases. This is then made aware of non-members through SMS or leaflets being distributed in the villages.
Awareness banners, posters and leaflets were circulated by health volunteers in villages to educate people about the spread of coronavirus and prevention techniques, before the lockdown. Announcements are also being made through mobile vans.
ACF is further engaging with District Health Officers/Local Government Authorities to understand the need of the hour. For instance, for those who are daily wage workers/labourers in the village with no current source of income, ACF is supporting by providing ration kits as well as educating them about government schemes available that will provide food grains to all under the PDS (Public Distribution System) for three months.
The ACF team is continuing to create awareness by sending informative messages through mobile messaging platforms like WhatsApp.
Some of the locations covered by ACF include Ambujanagar in Gujarat, Bhatapara in Chhattisgarh, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Darlaghat in Himachal Pradesh, Farakka in West Bengal and Ropar in Punjab.
The village health functionaries are putting in the maximum effort along with the local health authorities to restrict the entry of this virus into the villages. ACF aims to continue these interventions in order to protect maximum individuals and requested everyone to stay safe, healthy and at their respective homes.