The “World Health Day” is observed on April 07 every year. One cannot help thinking of this year’s tagline “Support nurses and midwives”. Aptly considered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the crucial role played by nurses in ensuring a healthy society is highly underscored. India is also reeling the effects of COVID-19 as medical workers in hospitals try to deal with the novel disease. In a scenario such as this, World Health Day must be celebrated to applaud the efforts of the masses but most importantly of our medical workforce.
A Salute to India’s Nurses
Services by nurses are mostly ignored. This is because many people do not realize the extent to which doctors collaborate with nurses before making any clinical decisions. With more people flocking to hospitals to seek relief from the disease, nurses are finding themselves at the sharp end of patient care. The fact that they are at the forefront of the war on coronavirus underscores their valuable contribution to maintaining the society’s health. This World Health Day, we join to applaud the selfless efforts our nurses put into their services.
Stalling Migrant Exodus
The economy is in a crippled state as all businesses have closed their operations due to the government-mandated lockdown. The daily wage laborers who lost their sources of income were forced to walk back to their villages located far away from the cities. Sudden wage loss aggravated their already deplorable condition as fear of economic crisis loomed large on this hapless lot.
Though the government has no official count of the informal working class scrambling to return to their villages, the recent migrant exodus at the inter-state borders struck at the collective conscience of society. This prompted the government and non-government organizations to take scurried steps in providing them food and shelter.
Relying on NGO Support
As per an advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the states have been urged to consult various non-government organizations (NGOs) and utilize their services to ensure migrants with a constant supply of food and adequate shelter facilities. Lost and stranded laborers are now dependent on government aid and charities’ help. Some NGOs are now distributing food packets and sanitizers to homeless people while many have partnered with health care centers to ensure their appropriate screening. While alleviation of their imminent state of penury may not be possible, timely support with food and sanitary facilities have furthered the workers’ well-being while lessening their vulnerability to diseases.
To mitigate the existing crisis, the Smile Foundation (with its headquarters in Delhi) has adopted a targeted approach to reach out to 1,50,000 families by taking care of their food requirements while educating them about strategies and measures advised by the government. The “COVID-19 Programme” designed to take care of essential needs can be defined as a “two-pronged approach”.
Approach 1: Provision of dry ration: Through this initiative, the migrant families would be secured against possible goods security in the event of the sudden virus epidemic. Coronavirus cases have risen sharply in the last 24 hours amidst fears that the estimated numbers of those affected may be higher. This underlines the need to avail these people with foods and other items of everyday use. The dry ration ingredients would be distributed in various phases with the initial phase benefiting migrant families in the coming month and would consist of rice, dal, salt, oil, sugar, masks, sanitary pads to name a few and other essential commodities.
Approach 2: Health awareness initiative: Experts fear that three out of 10 migrants may be potential carriers of the virus. To counter the possible spread of this virus and to educate the illiterate about safety measures, teleconsultation would be provided to people dispersed across affected areas of the country. The foundation would make use of the pervasiveness of mobile and internet use to provide vulnerable populations with online medical assistance. Besides, these people would be educated about ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Self Quarantine’ through digital means.
Smile on Wheels
The foundation had commenced its services to spread awareness about this disease and equip people with lifesaving information on hygiene and quarantine even before the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the country. More than 180 health care personnel were working on the field to spread awareness among the masses every day through the foundation’s mobile unit “Smile on Wheels” in 19 states across the country. Nearly 1000 communities benefited from this programme as doctors, nurses and paramedics explained to them the urgency of the situation and advised on measures to prevent spreading the virus to others.
While there is no vaccine or treatment against COVID-19, Smile Foundation is confident that timely help and a mass effort through responsible action can contain the virus from spreading and overwhelming for the country.