‘Unappreciated’ ASHA workers provide crucial link in containing COVID spread

Team Udayavani, Jul 26, 2020, 3:32 PM IST

Mangaluru: Since the imposition of the lockdown, the pandemic has meant more hours of work and personal risk to Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers who are the frontline COVID warriors in this fight again.

ASHA worker is a community health worker or the first point of call for any health-related demands and concerns of rural and now even urban India. For little remuneration, they carry out the enormous task of bringing the inaccessible public health system closer to the disempowered community by facilitating awareness on healthcare-related information and improving utilization of existing government schemes and services.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in India, the responsibilities of the ASHA workers were expanded while little was done to strengthen their paralyzing social and physical protection. Notably, a large number of ASHA workers are deployed to do surveys at each and every household to contain COVID spread and are at high risk of not only contracting the virus but also are subjected to assault.

As we all know many ASHA workers have been assaulted by people during the lockdown, however, it did not stop them from doing their job. They visit households in the course of their duty on the COVID frontlines. It is no stretch to say that they are putting their well-being and safety on the line to ensure that the public remains healthy.

Speaking to Udayavani Shobha, an ASHA worker said, “Since the lockdown was imposed in the country we have visited each household and conduct surveys in cities, towns, and remote villages. During the initial days, we used to meet abroad returnees, collect their information, and ask them to take all the precautionary methods so that they can avoid contracting the virus. We are deployed to spread awareness and look for the people with symptoms of coronavirus like dry cough, fever, etc.”

Shobha further added, “Every day ASHA workers are potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus as we spend hours in tracing primary and secondary contacts, gathering travel history of residents in a locality and other data. On average, we cover over 15 houses a day.”

“Our help is crucial to the government to contain the spread of Covid-19, but the supply of masks and gloves to us is very low, during initial days we were not even given masks or gloves, however, now they are providing us with 3 to 4 use and throw masks in a week,” she added.

“The fear is natural…My family has always been supportive of my work but after I was deployed to do surveys they were so worried and always asked me to be very careful. However, they have never stopped me from doing my duty, ” she added.

The ASHA workers as their name suggests, are living up to it and serving people amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, their selfless service during the crisis has earned the praise from the Union health ministry. Unfortunately, there are a few elements in our society who appear not to appreciate the sacrifices that the ASHA workers have made.

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