- Ashish accompanied frontline workers in educating people about COVID
- The COVID warrior also assisted in conducting door-to-door check-ups
- Despite facing resistance, Ashish managed to visit 100 households
New Delhi: In May, when COVID-19 cases surged to 4 lakh cases a day, almost all states across the country reported this spike. Odisha, which was reporting just a few hundred cases in early April, soon started to log over 1,000 cases a day and in May, the number even crossed 12,000. The sudden growth in cases and people’s carelessness in following COVID appropriate behaviour, motivated 22-year-old Gunasagar Sahu, fondly known as Ashish, from Sadanandpur village in Bargarh district to stand up for his community.
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Ashish volunteered to assist frontline workers such as the Anganwadi and ASHA workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, by disseminating the right information and creating awareness. Talking about his idea behind working on the ground during the pandemic, Ashish said,
I could sense the urgency to reach people and impress upon them to stay indoors. We had to ensure that young children, who usually don’t show any symptoms of COVID-19, do not bring the disease home and infect the elderly, immunocompromised and other vulnerable members in the family. While this looked easy it was extremely complex. People were blatant about violating safety norms and creative in finding ways to beat lockdown guidelines by hosting weddings and visiting relatives.
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The recklessness stemmed from the belief that COVID-19 is not a severe disease and something they will never get. Elaborating on the preformed notions of the villagers, Ashish said,
People would say that we never washed hands five or 10 times a day, nothing ever happened to us. Why do we need to wash our hands regularly now? Or they would say, bad germs are also important to make our immune system strong and not fall on its knees in case of mild flu. Similarly, they had misconceptions about vaccines and its effectiveness.
To bust these prevalent myths, Ashish along with ASHA and Anganwadi workers went door-to-door, counselling people and sharing information, education and communication (IEC) material including videos, photographs and write-ups. All to reinstate the fact that the only way to protect one from contracting the COVID-19 disease is to follow the rule of thumb that is to mask up, maintain social distance and wash or sanitise hands regularly.
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Behavioural change doesn’t happen overnight. You have to knock on the same door twice, thrice, or until the person on the other side of the door gets ready to listen. You have to pester people and that’s exactly what we did despite facing extreme responses – from fear to panic to people slamming the door on our face. The one thing that kept me going was our frontline workers who travelled 10-20 kms every day to educate people even when villagers turned a blind eye, said Ashish.
The COVID warrior also assisted in conducting door-to-door checks to monitor people showing symptoms of COVID-19, and conducted follow-up checks with patients to monitor their recovery. As of today, he has visited around 100 households. Ashish is one of the young COVID warriors recognised by YuWaah, a multi-stakeholder platform formed by UNICEF, for bringing the change and the leadership role played during the pandemic.
Talking to NDTV about Ashish’s initiative, Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief, Generation Unlimited (YuWaah), Youth Development & Partnerships, UNICEF, said,
It is deeply heartening and inspiring watching young people like Ashish emerge as champions and take charge to lead the country out of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis. This reinstates that if young people are provided with information, skills and platform and are included in important civic decisions and actions, the outcome can be phenomenal.
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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.