As the coronavirus spreads to rural India, these ASHA workers risk their lives every day to serve their community
They are charged with door-to-door surveys, contact tracing especially for migrants returning home and educating people about necessary precautions
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
"People hide information from us and later start fighting” - Neelam, ASHA Worker
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
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
In the time of an unprecedented pandemic, these women have proven to be indispensable
“We will definitely defeat coronavirus!”- Anita Kumari, Asha Worker