The onslaught of the second wave of the COVID-19 has hit the country harder than it did during the first wave last year. The country’s healthcare resources have been stretched thin battling the deadlier second wave but steadily, there have been positive signs of cases decreasing over the last few days. Worryingly, however, the North East of India has been tipped as the next epicentre for a major outbreak with cases still increasing rapidly. And with healthcare facilities and resources scarce in rural areas, rural communities are among the most vulnerable.
As recently as the third week of May, close dialogue with many partner communities of NESFAS pointed the rise of the COVID-19 to be directly related to the unavailability of quarantine centres in these communities. In Meghalaya, many of the frontline workers engaged by the Durbar Shnong were found to be without any special protective gear like face masks and gloves, further increasing the risk of spread among these workers.
In a bid to help these communities brace themselves better for the impending breakout, NESFAS, over the past few weeks, has worked with partner communities to devise and roll out strategies for community resilience against the deadly virus. Understanding the need to suppress the transmission of virus, communities have come forward in setting up over 112 quarantine centres across Meghalaya and Nagaland. The setup of quarantine centres has also coincided with the distribution of safety kits for the healthcare workers as well as providing necessary requirements to these centres. PHCs in collaboration with the ASHAs have also initiated health checkups and immunisation drives. For Khweng community, which is one of the worst-hit communities with over 118 cases and 1 death, NESFAS in collaboration with Bhoirymbong CHC has provided special assistance to facilitate the starting of 3 quarantine centres in Khweng and Liarsluid.
To further map the situations in these communities, NESFAS undertook a comprehensive review of COVID-19 related situations in Meghalaya and Nagaland on the 28th of May. The virtual meeting was also attended by NESFAS’s founding Chairperson Bah Phrang Roy along with Mr. Rathindra Roy, Advisor & Facilitator of Learning, Strategic Thinking, and Change.
The review meeting started with Badarishisha Nongkynrih, Lead Associate, Food and Public Health Services, NESFAS, presenting updates on the strategic plan for community resilience against COVID-19 that had been implemented over the past weeks. Three trained nurses from Rapsbun School of Nursing, Nazareth Hospital and one from Down Town Hospital, Guwahati are also supporting the communities on a daily basis.
The review team executed a detailed mapping of rural communities in terms of safety parameters and ways to monitor and evaluate the mechanisms to prevent the disease from further spread. On top of taking strategic approaches towards building indicators to help identify COVID-19 cases, the review team also mapped for food security within the communities.
Along with the deadly COVID-19 virus, poverty is another virus that has crippled rural communities across the nation since last year. As such, the need to initiate food banks was discussed as a means to combat hunger and to strengthen communities. Bah Phrang Roy, the founding Chairperson of NESFAS, stressed mainly on building self-resilience communities to be self-sufficient and not be too reliant on the government for various needs during times of crisis.
In addition to this, NESFAS has set up COVID-19 monitoring in 130 partner communities with the objectives to:
- Understand the situation of project villages/communities from the disease point of view.
- Understand the level of preparedness of project villages towards COVID-19.
- Understand the challenges and difficulties faced by our community.
So far, various parameters of the monitor have indicated positive responses and actions from the partner communities. Of the 130 partner communities, 125 participated in the survey for “Sufficient Local Food Productions” with 45.36% of the communities being highly prepared (10-12 months), 47.44% medium (7-9 months), and 7.2% low (less than 6 months). As many as 113 communities have also set up COVID-19 committees with the remaining 17 communities without active committees presently as they have not reported any COVIC-19 so far.
Proximity and accessibility to health centres and hospitals have been found to be a major problem for most communities. Add to this is the unavailability of running water, beds, and electricity in some of the quarantine centres. For this, communities themselves have identified volunteers who will support such centres where NESFAS has been able to support with protective gears to help alleviate the burden the frontline and healthcare workers are facing in these communities.