Well-Armed Health Workers in Bihar's Nalanda

Well-Armed Health Workers in Bihar's Nalanda

The criss-cross lanes of Dehra Daldali village (Harnaut block, Nalanda district) will lead you to Ruby Devi’s home. The first time I met Ruby, the 28 year old Dalit ASHA worker was carrying a stack of papers — these were pamphlets on Japanese encephalitis awareness. She was sweating profusely but that did not deter her from going door to door distributing the pamphlet. Not much had changed during the pandemic. During the peak of COVID-19—both first and second wave— Ruby Devi continued her door to door visits spreading awareness about the pandemic.

ASHAs are the frontline health workers and they are the first point of contact of public healthcare system for the community. They collect information on health indicators and help the community to access treatment; they are also responsible for maintaining records of patients and their contacts.

Though she and thousands ASHAs like her continued to work on the COVID prevention awareness programme, they themselves had no protective gear to keep them safe from the pandemic. All that was provided to her was a pair of cloth mask and a soap. She was supposed to document health indicators of villagers but she did not even had a proper thermometer. Oximeter was a distant dream, even utopian!

Oxfam India’s Mission Sanjeevani programme apart from providing medical equipment to hospitals, PHCs and CHCs, and food to the most marginalised communities, also decided to train and provide safety kits to 60,000 ASHAs in 10 states. The kit would include a thermal gun and oximeter apart from masks, sanitiser, gloves and a body suit. Training was provided to ASHAs on the use of the gadgets safely and properly.

Oxfam India has reached 25000 ASHAs till now. Ruby Kumari is one among them. She found the training very informative but she was the most thrilled with her thermal gun and oximeter.

She says, ”ये thermometer से दूर से ही बुखार नाप सकते हैं | पहले बीमार के पास जाना पड़ता था | कोरोना के टाइम पे बहुत डर लगता था |” (This thermometer can measure fever from a distance. Earlier I had to get very close to the patient and this was very frightening during the peak of the pandemic)

Ruby Devi adds that the training and safety kit has also made the villagers take her much more seriously. At the home front, her brother and husband kept insisting that she quit the job, especially during the peak of the pandemic, because she had received no safety gear from the government and health workers were being treated as outcasts. The kit has certainly helped put the apprehensions and concerns of the villagers and the family at rest.

A thrilled and thankful Ruby Devi sums up, “The only safety kit I had was a soap and two masks. I managed to get one faulty thermometer from somewhere. Oxfam’s training and safety kit are godsend.”

Image courtesy: Prince

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