ASHA workers: The backbone of India’s primary healthcare

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As the coronavirus spreads to rural India, these ASHA workers risk their lives every day to serve their community

Image Source: PTI

They are charged with door-to-door surveys, contact tracing especially for migrants returning home and educating people about necessary precautions

Image Source: Indian Express

Who are ASHA workers?

The National Health Mission website describes ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers as “health activists”

In this pandemic, there are over 9 lakh ASHA workers across India working hard to protect their community.

ASHA workers are normally chosen from within the community and are expected to work in areas they live in

The list of duties they are expected to perform include providing information on nutrition, basic sanitation & hygienic practices...

...healthy living and working conditions, counsel women on birth preparedness, importance of safe delivery and much more

For ASHA workers, the pandemic has meant more hours of work and personal risk

Image Source: Times of India

Despite their glorious trail of displays, the ASHA workers are facing some challenges

They fight against the infodemic of rumours about the virus

"People hide information from us and later start fighting” - Neelam, ASHA Worker

Image Source: EPA/FAROOQ KHAN

They are also paid very less compared to the work they are doing

Image Source: EPA/FAROOQ KHAN

The Delhi Asha Workers’ Association (DAWA) even requested chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that the workers be paid Rs 10,000 per month during the pandemic

There have been sustaining continuous physical and verbal attacks, testing positive for the virus and fronting burnout across India

Image Source: ANI

Though, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its guidelines acknowledged the plight of healthcare workers

It directed the state governments to ensure proper provisions of PPE for health care workers and delivery of timely payments

For ASHA workers specifically, however, the bar of protection is set lower than the other healthcare workers

The Ministry’s guidelines on ‘Rational Use of Personal Protective Equipment’ classifies ASHA workers as ‘low risk’ among health care workers recommending only triple layer masks and gloves for their protection.

However, in reality, it has been a struggle for the ASHA workers to even secure this minimum protection

But, they are determined to help the community

Image Source: aif.org

In the time of an unprecedented pandemic, these women have proven to be indispensable

Image Source: The Hindu

“We will definitely defeat coronavirus!”- Anita Kumari, Asha Worker

Image Source: The Hindu