Asha’s Covid-19 Public Health Programs
Asha continued its Public Health Programs in compliance with Covid-19 protocols, providing teams with full PPE and training to ensure their safety during the interventions.
Asha Provided Supplementary Nutrition for Malnourished Children and Women
To address the rising cases of malnutrition across the slums, the Asha health and nutritional experts developed high energy, high protein, high calorie laddoos and distributed these to children. To control malnutrition and anemia among women and girls, they developed a high energy, high protein, high calorie drink (sattu), and administered it and micronutrients through special clinics five days a week.
Asha Enhanced Immunity Levels
Building immunity has been key in preventing severe Covid infections. Asha provided community members, especially the vulnerable, elderly, and sick patients with micronutrients to enhance their immunity. During the lockdown, health volunteers distributed these supplements in homes and ensured that they were taken.
Asha Promoted Vaccinations
Asha registered its field team and the Warriors for vaccination and the entire Asha team and the Corona Warriors received the required two doses of vaccine. Asha promoted slum community vaccination drives to reduce vaccine hesitancy, and the Warriors accompanied residents for vaccination.
Asha Continued its Non-Covid-19 Programs
Maternal and Newborn Care
Immediately after the reopening, Asha organized clinics for children under 5, in compliance with Covid-19 protocols. They monitored their health and prescribed remedial action as necessary. Children across the slums were provided with doses of iron, zinc, and other vitamin supplements.
Along with their physical ailments, the elderly experienced mental stress, loneliness, and isolation. A team member assigned to an elderly person visited daily to provide much needed support. They helped with daily activities such as cleaning, shopping and chores, ensured that they took their medicines, and provided their mobile number in case of an emergency. After the lockdown, Asha conducted clinics and Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) also visited the elderly at home and accompanied them to the clinic, where they received medical check-ups and medicines. Elder abuse, particularly verbal abuse, increased during Covid-19. Asha advocacy groups intervened when they observed elderly residents being treated unfairly or poorly by family members.
After the lockdown, the Asha healthcare team initiated special clinics to screen people for diabetes and hypertension and to treat and monitor identified patients. They also educated patients on the importance of a balanced diet, lifestyle management, and exercise along with medication for controlling hypertension and diabetes.
The Asha team continued to accompany TB patients to the nearest government-run DOT (Directly Observed Therapy) centers, to continue their treatment regime. Ninety-nine percent of TB patients across Asha slums successfully received treatment and the death rate was less than 1%.
Asha ensured menstrual hygiene in adolescent girls and women through the monthly distribution of feminine pads in all its communities.
Mental Health Support
In addition to the healthcare crisis, mental health was exacerbated in the pandemic by social, economic and livelihood challenges. As people lost their incomes and were confined to their homes, rising cases of domestic violence, mental stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness occurred, sometimes leading to suicide. The Asha team and Warriors visited every house in their respective communities and provided people with support, carrying a message of hope and optimism.
Asha’s Mahila Mandal (Women’s Groups) activities began again when the lockdown ended, strictly observing Covid-19 protocols. Mahila Mandal members reduced cases of domestic violence by conducting regular home visits in their respective communities. Mahila Mandal members also lobbied the local Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and government officials for community cleanliness and sanitization.
Asha’s Response to the Pandemic’s Second Wave
In April, 2021, India reported more than 300,000 daily cases of Covid-19. Hospitals and Covid-19 centers filled within days. Long lines of Covid-19 positive patients desperately waited at hospitals, hoping for a bed. Growing numbers of pulmonary patients with low oxygen levels led to an increased demand for oxygen and an acute oxygen crisis in Delhi. The death rate rose significantly.
- During this time, Asha scaled up and conducted house to house visits identifying people with any flu-like symptoms. The Warriors encouraged the community to report cases without fear of ostracization. People who had come into contact with positive cases were put on a preventative regime.
- Asha developed a strategy for home treatment of Covid-19 patients, categorizing patients into mild, moderate, and severe, and started treatment as per protocols. The teams monitored mildly symptomatic patients in regular tele-consultation with the Asha doctor, as mild patients had a high risk of becoming moderate or severe in a short time. Patients moderately ill were treated with anticoagulants and bronchodilators through nebulization to stabilize their condition.
- Severely ill patients who were refused hospital admission were treated in their homes as per protocols, with patient or family member consent. Treatments included intravenous and oral medicines, nebulization with steroids, and frequent monitoring of oxygen levels. Severely ill patients received oxygen from concentrators if their oxygen saturation (SpO2) was below 94.
- During this unprecedented crisis, the Asha team’s commitment and dedication saved hundreds of lives. Generous donations from UK, US, and Australia enabled Asha to obtain the resources needed for this crisis. Of all 688 confirmed patients suffering from Covid-19 across the communities, only one death occurred, a truly remarkable achievement.