New Delhi: Along with a public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it hunger, loss of employment, lack of accessibility to essential commodities and serious concerns regarding health and hygiene. At such a difficult time, there are some people rising selflessly to lead the fightback from their communities. One such person is Alomati Ray, a resident of Jatkhedi slum in Ward 53 of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh; who emerged as a woman community leader and contributed to the development of her slum.
Jatkhedi slum is located at the periphery of BHOPAL and is inhabited largely by migrant and construction labourers, with 230 households in total. WaterAid India is leading a project for safe water, functional toilets and good hygiene for communities and schools in Bhopal, and the organisation appreciated Alomati’s work. A spokesperson from the organisation told NDTV,
Alomati’s work as a community leader began in the year 2019, when, after mobilisation by WaterAid India and its partner Aarambh NGO, a women’s group was formed and she was selected as president of the group. She participated in different training and orientation programmes organised during the project and built her capacities around water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Since 2019, Alomati has been actively working on improving the WASH status of the slum, the spokesperson added and explained,
Understanding the importance of sanitation, she identified those households that were unable to avail any toilet facility provided by the Swachh Bharat Mission and shared her list with the municipal corporation, advocating for their inclusion. She has also been motivating these households to build low-cost toilets without waiting for government subsidies for the sake of their health. Furthermore, Alomati advocated for the construction of an accessible toilet for a family with a differently-abled member.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, she worked proactively with WaterAid India and Aarambh, along with the team from the Bhopal Municipal Corporation to create awareness, provide relief material, and prevent further spread of the virus.
The pandemic demands strict adherence to hygienic behaviour, in order to save lives. Along with other members of the group, Alomati motivated the community to follow hygiene practices. She got herself oriented on the different facets of COVID-19 through the videos and (Information, Education and Communication) IEC materials provided under an eight-day project campaign on hygiene awareness.
Under this COVID-19 awareness campaign, Alomati circulated information to all the community members of her slum and surrounding areas through social media like WhatsApp, one-to-one meetings, and by organising small meetings; all the while ensuring social distancing. She pasted handmade posters and wrote awareness slogans at all the community points of the slum. She also provided her support to Anganwadi workers and other health frontline workers conducting surveys for identification of suspected COVID-19 patients by motivating the community to provide the correct information, the WaterAid India spokesperson explained.
Initially, the children and men of the community used to gather in groups and not adhere to social distancing, however, she educated them and ensured that lockdown and social distancing were followed in the slum.
The water points were also regularly disinfected to avoid any possible infection. The group members have limited entry and exit of the slum dwellers to prevent the spread of the virus. To ensure that the community does not come in contact with anyone infected, engagement with non-residents was kept to a minimal.
Furthermore, Alomati played an important role in helping with her community members’ need for essential items during the lockdown.
Immediately after the lockdown was imposed, she got in touch with the ward councillor, BMC officials, and other organisations. Alomati regularly and successfully coordinated with them to arrange food and dry rations for almost fifty marginalised and needy families living in her slum.
In addition to providing rations and meals, she enthused a charitable local businessman and facilitated the distribution of Rs 200 to all the households in the slum. In all these initiatives, she ensured that disabled people, single parents, orphans, senior citizens and other such vulnerable groups were given priority. She made sure that these processes were implemented while maintaining social distance among other precautions, WaterAid India spokesperson told NDTV.
During the lockdown, women and adolescent girls of her slum facED a scarcity of sanitary pads. Alomati, with support from WaterAid and Aarambh, facilitated the supply of sanitary pads from a local charity firm, informed the spokesperson.
She also participated in the digital campaign organised on Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 29) and shared the awareness video with adolescent girls and women of the slum.
The campaign focused on safe ways that cotton cloth pads could be used as alternate pads during the supply crisis, to have access to menstrual hygiene management during the lockdown.
Warriors like Alomati, who are constantly working towards improving the lives of the marginalised, are an asset to any community. For all her effort during this pandemic, she is the prime reason that when surrounding areas of the slums are becoming hotspots’ and ‘containment zones’ in Bhopal, Jatkhedi slum has been free of the deadly coronavirus, the WaterAid India spokesperson signed off.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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