OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19 | May 2021
The sheer scale and speed of the COVID surge spreading across India has left us all heartbroken. The government is making valiant efforts to tackle the issue, but much support is required in terms of strengthening health facilities, training frontline health workers, ensuring sufficient safety gear, fulfilling medical supplies, ramping up vaccination drives, and so on.
Building an effective system response to COVID-19 in rural India is critical; ignoring India’s villages could build up an invisible COVID surge, that will come back to hurt everyone. Because, in a connected world, we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Antara Foundation has supported government’s COVID-response on various fronts. In 2020 alone, we extended our capacity building efforts to COVID-management, covering ~2 million people in ~2,000 villages through a community of ~2,600 frontline workers, and provided on-site support at health facilities. We adapted our interventions to ensure improved identification and tracking of high-risk COVID populations (e.g., elderly people, pregnant women, people with co-morbidities). We helped government with monitoring and supervision of the response efforts. Additionally, we worked on ways to ensure continuity of critical maternal and child health services.
In the next 6-12 months, even as India rolls out an ambitious vaccination program, rural areas will continue to see the fallout of the COVID surge. In the next few weeks, our work will cover 40,000 frontline workers and health staff, serving more than 10 million people in 6,800 villages across five districts in Madhya Pradesh. We will work on three key initiatives:
- Bridge supply gaps for health workers and facilities – PPE, thermometers, oximeters, batteries and other critical supplies
- Build frontline workers' capacity – on COVID-19 screening, prevention, counselling and vaccination, through virtual training sessions, on-site handholding and remote support
- Mobilize community demand for vaccination – create and distribute informational materials, recruit local changemakers in key gram panchayats to address vaccine hesitancy
In the coming weeks, we will learn and adapt. Future efforts may include expansion to more districts, supporting COVID testing, emergency care kits for high-risk pregnant women and children, and more local partnerships. We want our COVID support to have meaningful and lasting impact on overall health systems strengthening, i.e., to equip the public health system to deliver quality health services sustainably, and not to create a parallel system or stopgap measures alone.