A tale of two Sakhis – Fighting Covid-19 Pandemic in India’s villages

USAID’s Corporate TB Pledge member Ambuja Cement Foundation responds to COVID-19 by screening the migrant laborers returning home...

USAID’s Corporate TB Pledge member Ambuja Cement Foundation responds to COVID-19 by screening the migrant laborers returning home across 1902 villages in India

The COVID-19 has impacted the vulnerable and marginalized communities, especially the migrant population returning home. The long journey back home exposes many such workers to the disease, making them and their families in the villages vulnerable to the pandemic.

Chinu Mandal, a community outreach worker from Farakka in West Bengal, provides help to the authorities in tracking those who have just returned from the city.

“Villagers from the community mostly prefer to migrate to the city to earn a better livelihood for their families. However, with most of them returning to the villages due to the prevailing situation, the village health authorities are carrying out precautionary measures in the communities, and my role is to track those who have just returned from the city, make them aware about the quarantine period and also inform the village health authority as a part,” says Chinu Mandal.

Chinu is among the frontline outreach workers supported by Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), who have helped identify 88 COVID-19 positive patients. These outreach workers, also called ‘Sakhi’ (a female friend), are helping government authorities raise awareness about COVID-19. More than 144 Sakhis across locations are playing a significant role in restricting the COVID-19 spread through awareness generation, identifying migrant labors, and facilitating screening and testing and regular home visits to ensure home quarantine.

Rakhi Singha, another Sakhi associated with ACF from Farakka in West Bengal, is responsible for awareness generation about COVID 19 in the community. “During the awareness phase of the virus, we received training and information from the ACF health team and the health authorities about COVID19. This led us to initiate awareness sessions amongst villagers in the early stages itself,” says Rakhi. She also keeps a check on the people in the community and provides them with information leaflets in the local language about the disease.

This concept of ‘Sakhi’ has helped communities become aware and supportive of the work done by outreach workers. The brave role played by these outreach workers comes with a huge risk, but that does not deter their spirits.

“My family has been very supportive of my work on these health programs – wholeheartedly allowing me to continue doing me important work in this crisis. They know we have always been committed to our work, receive a lot of gratitude from the villagers, and feel proud of the work we do.” Rakhi said. “Yes, if we as Health Functionaries take a back step now, then who will protect our villages?” says Chinu.

Established in 1993, Ambuja Cement Foundation is a grassroots pan-India implementing organization that harnesses the power of partnerships –between communities, Government and other like-minded corporates and NGOs – to help solve pressing community problems and to foster prosperity. The organization has empowered people like Rakhi and Chinu through their Sakhi initiative, who are now leading the frontlines to ensure their villages win the battle against COVID-19 epidemic. The organization is also a member of USAID’s Corporate TB Pledge (CTP), driven by a collaborative effort of PAHAL and The UNION. PAHAL provides technical support to the CTP members giving them recognition to join the multisectoral fight to eliminate TB and in times of COVID is helping bring forward the work done by such organizations.

About PAHAL: PAHAL is USAID and IPE Global’s flagship innovative financing project which is looking to promote innovative health financing models and market-based approaches to address key health challenges for the poor and vulnerable communities. It seeks to improve access to affordable and quality healthcare solutions for underserved communities with a particular focus on Tuberculosis, Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition and WASH.

About Corporate TB Pledge: USAID has been working with the Ministry of health and Family Welfare MoHFW, Government of India, to make India TB free by 2025, as a vision of the Honorable PM, Shri Narendra Modi. MoHFW, GOI, seeks to engage Corporate commitments through a unique initiative of a Corporate TB pledge, supported by USAID which is developed to galvanize the corporate sector around a shared TB vision. The TB pledge gives recognition to the corporate sector to join the multi sector al fight to eliminate TB in India. Currently, more than 100 corporates have signed the pledge to support TB elimination programs across the country.


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