ASHAs are female community health workers and an integral part of the rural healthcare system in India. In many communities, they’re the most trusted medical figure and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they are even more crucial as front liners in India’s battle against the virus.
To support this community, EVF India distributed 1000 COVID-19 care kits to ASHAs in Karnataka. We spoke to Ms. Manjamma, an ASHA worker, about her experience and the challenges she faces during the pandemic.
- What has your experience as a COVID-19 front liner been like?
I have seen a positive change in health-seeking behavior among the rural population; people are now responsive to government guidelines and instructions. It makes me feel like we have a greater role to play to promote community health initiatives in rural areas.
- What challenges do ASHAs face in this time of crisis?
At the start, we focused on raising awareness on testing, vaccination, home isolation and hospitalization for those who tested positive for COVID-19 and educate those living in rural areas to act when needed. Another challenge is to try to keep our family members safe as we are exposed to many people every day.
- Could you briefly describe the roles and responsibilities of an ASHA in delivering healthcare to rural communities? Does it include primary vision care?
ASHAs are the last line for delivering health care to the rural population. We visit the villages daily, checking them for common illnesses.
Since we do a complete health screening of the rural population, if anyone reports an issue with their vision, we immediately refer them to the nearest government hospital, which has a vision screening facility.
- What are some of the key vision care challenges facing the communities you work with? Has that been affected by COVID-19?
Due to movement restrictions during COVID-19, the rural population who needed vision care services had to postpone their visit. We are now focused on scheduling visits for those with vision problems at their nearest hospitals.
- How can organisations like EVF better support your work in the face of the ongoing pandemic?
EVF has supported ASHAs with COVID-19 protective gear, which helped us to effectively deliver services during the pandemic. We express our sincere gratitude to EVF for this support.
This interview has been translated and edited for brevity.