Need to accelerate health education-related activities amidst COVID-19 in rural areas

Letter to Gujarat chief secretary Anil Mukim and principal secretary, health and family welfare, Jayanti S Ravi on the need to accelerate health education-related activities amidst COVID-19, especially in rural areas:

Through this letter we would like to bring to your notice following points based on our constant contact with the poor in rural areas:

1. An atmosphere of fear: There is an unprecedented atmosphere due to the constant news of the ongoing disease in the country. In this situation, what is most needed is to educate people. There is a need to reduce fear among the people and educate them on how to take precautionary measures against the disease.

2. Lack of basic amenities: The biggest fear among the rural areas is failure to get oxygen. In addition to explaining that not every sick person needs oxygen, it is also important to measure the amount of oxygen so that people become less fearful of the disease. It is not possible for us to deliver one pulse-oximeter to each home. But it is possible that we can arrange at least one pulse-oximeter in each village.

3. Fear due to death rate: Even in small villages, there is an atmosphere of extreme fear due to the sudden and unusual rise in deaths. We are aware that fear itself contributes to the spread of the disease. Therefore, it is very important to convey basic information about COVID-19 in simple language to every home. It is not enough to advertise that there is a need to to wear mask, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing. In fact, such a message becomes meaningless after people see on TV screen how rules related to COVID-19 are openly violated.

4. Fear of death due to vaccination: This fear is one of the reasons for poor vaccination among the rural areas.

What can be done?

Together, we, Janvikas, Navsarjan Trust, Centre for Social Justice and other organizations, have conducted an experiment in 1,000 villages of Gujarat.

We have our own trained social workers in 1,000 villages who have been provided one kit to be handed over to each village. The kit includes the following items:

1. Pulse-oximeter

2. Steamer

3. Digital thermometer

4. A simple explanation of the disease based on the information released by the World Health Organization and the Government of India. The colourful booklet contains facts related with causes of the disease, a guide to prevention and how to help others, basic exercises, food items to be consumed, measures to be taken once you recover)

4. Paracetamol

5. Balloons for breathing exercises

6. For the worker, washable hand gloves

7. Bottle of sanitizer

8. Excess battery cell for pulse-oximeter and digital thermometer

The kit also includes a four minute video demonstrating how to use the tools provided.

The cost of one such kit per village is estimated at Rs 3000. As soon as the kit reaches the village, the demand for the kit is comes from other villages. This work is easy, it can be done, it is an activity in which people willingly contribute, and if we take it up, the work of this vigorous education can reach millions of people. This can help people take care of themselves and remove unreasonable fear in rural Gujarat.

Based on our experience, we feel, there is a need to bring to your notice, and also appeal to you, that we can take this educational activity home to every home of Gujarat very quickly by involving thousands of volunteer workers.

Best wishes

Gagan Sethi, Janvikas

gaganssethi@gmail.com; 98240 23029 (M)

Martin Macwan, Navsarjan Trust

(martin.macwan@gmail.com; 97124 17548 (M)

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