Masked up, ASHA workers go door to door checking temperatures, providing food and medicines, arranging ambulances and beds since March 2020 and now their job include getting people vaccinated.
An accredited social health activist (ASHA) is a community health worker instituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as a part of the National Rural Health Mission. ASHAs are local women trained to act as health educators andpromoters in their communities, they act as a key communication mechanism between the healthcare system and the rural populations.
ASHA: Accredited Social Health Activists, have been at the forefront in the battle against Covid 19 and they are the backbone of country’s healthcare at the grass root level. For every health scheme, launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare it’s the ASHA workers who implement them and make sure that it reaches the rural, illiterate and interior section of people. However the healthcare schemes, funds and insurances announced for frontline workers doesn’t count in ASHA workers.
In this pandemic, they’ve been put in 14 hour shifts, seven days a week. They go door to door checking people’s temperatures, especially children, pregnant women and old people. They prepare a list and it isupdated every day. They disseminate Covid 19 precautions to their flock, trace primary and secondary contacts, ensure that the migrants are observing their quarantine period and provide them with basic necessities, which includes milk and food. They are subjected to constant calling, people informing about the arrival of migrants, requesting medical help like ambulances, beds and hospitals. At some places, people who tested positive are denied food and the ASHA workers take up the responsibility to attend the Covid positive patients, not minding the risk of them getting infected.
These strong women didn’t complain when they were denied Covid precaution kits (PPE kits, masks and sanitizers). But disturbingly, the government didn’t come up with any schemes and insurance for these workers. Worse is that they’ve been denied their salaries for almost a year, they didn’t go for a strike as people’s lives mattered more for them.
With the second wave, taking control of the country. ASHA workers are affected the most. They are easily exposed to the deadly virus, a huge number of ASHA workers, also single moms lost their lives to this virus leaving their innocent children on roads.
The country announced its biggest vaccination drive on March 1, 2021. Though we could witness people coming forward to take up the dose, they are from the educated and urban class. The rural population stood silent, it was the responsibility of ASHA workers to educate people about the importance of vaccination and get them their respective shots.
At the forefront of India’s health care system which is now creaking under the weight of the pandemic, nine lakh ASHA workers are soldiering on- unarmed, unprotected and poorly paid. Their job is thankless.