- ASHAs use village level committees to raise awareness about COVID-19
- ASHAs are also addressing stigma around COVID-19 in rural areas
- They are also assisting migrant returnees to to stay in home quarantine
New Delhi: As India is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, about 46,627 ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) in Odisha have emerged as “champions” against the virus in rural and urban areas by addressing local health needs during these challenging times. ASHAs have been working closely with Gaon Kalyan Samitis in the rural areas and Mahila Arogaya Samitis in the urban areas, community collectives within which ASHAs are embedded.
They have used these forums to facilitate COVID preventive actions by promoting the use of masks/face covers when stepping out in public spaces, being attentive towards frequent hand washing, following physical distancing and enhancing awareness of COVID symptoms.
One among them is Manju Jeena, an ASHA from village Kandalei of Khurda, who has been working tirelessly to support COVID-19 related activities. She has ensured that her community has access to essential and other health services.
In her years of committed community service, Manju has built up significant social capital and enabling her to effectively negotiate in addressing coronavirus-related stigma and resultant discrimination.
When a young returnee migrant was denied entry into the village and his home, Manju took it upon herself to single-handedly address the stigmatising behaviour of the community.
She combined community awareness on COVID-19 with relentless advocacy to ensure that the returnee was able to stay in home quarantine. She rigorously undertook regular follow up on his health status and healthcare needs during the quarantine period.
During the lockdown, Manju continued to facilitate access to other essential health services and encouraged and accompanied several pregnant women for institutional delivery.
Going beyond the call of duty, Manju also sewed face masks at home and distributed them to the poor in her village.
The ASHAs have created wide awareness about these through Information Education and Communication (IEC) activities like distribution of leaflets and posters at Swasthya Kantha (wall at village level).