Here is a glimpse into a typical day of rural health organiser who goes door to door asking people to gear up for the third wave by following four laws of prevention- wear masks, wash hands, maintain social distance and get vaccinated.
After carefully caressing the pleats of her bright sky blue saree, Usha adorns a mask that complements her saree’s vividness, and she smiles through it as the corner of her eyes crinkles in pleasure. “People in villages call us blue angels”, she says shyly.
Usha’s day begins at the break of dawn. She gets up at 4:30 AM. She cleans her house, cooks food for the family and then gets ready to resume her role as RDT rural health organiser in Bukkarayasamudram region of Anantapur district to visit villages in the region for health check-ups, to provide awareness on health and hygiene.
“Sometimes”, the word lay heavily on Usha’s lips as her gaze remained fixed on a fallen leaf for a moment, before continuing, “Sometimes it was difficult to reach out to people during the second wave. There was a sense of cluelessness as what and how to explain people about the resources crises when the second wave had hit. But I thought to myself if I remain uncertain then who will go and aware the people?” Every mandal has minimum one appointed RDT rural health organiser.
As the second wave struck with four times the ferocity of the first, leaving much devastation in its wake, RDT joined the frontline forces and launched various relief missions. Now, as the nation prepares for the third wave, and to prevent the country from falling into the depth of crises and helplessness, the government and civil society stand united. RDT has also taken part in the initiative to raise awareness regarding COVID-19 preventative measures.
“It is very obvious that people in rural areas have inhibitions about the vaccine” explains Usha while stepping out from the second house of her door to door visit. People in rural areas have little access to services and information, which eventually acts as a contributing factor in the spread of misinformation. However, with continuous door to door visits, group awareness sessions, street plays like pale solodhu, people are now leaving behind their stereotypes and embracing the benefits of vaccination.
“Vaccine is the only available solution to fight COVID-19” says Ramanjanil, Panchayat secretary, “Despite the various rumours concerning the vaccine, we have successfully vaccinated 600 people of 1200 people with single dose in Cherlopalli village of Bukkarayasamudram. We are making progress”. According to Ramanjanil, the government has set up one vaccination centre in every village.
Usha has been working as an RDT health organiser for the past 20 years and visits 20 to 25 houses on her weekly door to door visits. “I love my job”, says Usha with enthusiasm in her voice. “Since my childhood, I have been participating in various types of awareness programmes conducted by the RDT, this motivated me to pursue nursing studies and to work with the RDT healthcare network”
As Usha visits the fourth house to inquire about the health status of the family, the children of the house gather around her, frolicking and laughing while she speaks with the mother. “I had never heard about the vaccination before. Not even the rumours, neither good nor bad” says Laxmidevi, the mother of frolicking children and a resident of Cherlopalli village. “However, after attending group sessions and speaking with Usha akka personally, I have decided to get myself and my husband vaccinated”
Like Laxmidevi, many others in the village had no information about the vaccine. However, some others had fallen for the rumours surrounding the vaccine. “I had heard from someone that if I get vaccinated, I will get sick”, confesses Varalaxmi while she cradles her two-month-old baby. “When I read the information on the pamphlets given by the RDT, I spoke with Usha akka and Renuka akka, the Anganwadi teacher who explained to me the purpose of vaccine. It was then when I decided to get vaccinated”. Now, Varalaxmi believes that since she is vaccinated, she will be able to protect her baby as well.
Usha always writes down her number on the pamphlets that she distributes to the families and asks them to call her if need arrives.
“Awareness is a tool and we must use it wisely”, believes Renuka, the Anganwadi teacher who plans awareness programmes and sometimes also accompanies Usha on her visits.
“I feared that I will die if I get the vaccination. However, because of the health sessions conducted in our village, my son got vaccinated and he is healthy. I now have confidence in the vaccine” says Channama who encourages everyone to get vaccinated.
After completing the round of house visits, a small group gathered at RDT community school’s centre where Usha, and Renuka cleared their doubts and once again repeated the four laws of prevention- wear masks, wash hands, maintain social distance and get vaccinated.
Text: Dyuti Khulbe/RDT