Through rain and floods, Assam’s community workers battle pandemic -Tora Agarwala

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published Published on Jul 12, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 12, 2020

-The Indian Express

Floods might be as old as Assam, but fighting a pandemic in these swirling waters is a whole new challenge for even the most seasoned health worker.

GUWAHATI: It is the wind that has helped Pratima Barman plan her day as an accredited social health activist (ASHA) in Assam’s Dibrugarh district for seven years now. In the sapori (island) village where Barman lives, a strong gusty wind, coupled with the sight of a brimming Brahmaputra, signals the annual deluge. On such days, the 35-year-old will flip her crisp whilte-and-blue ASHA sari for one which is old. She will wear her washed-out rubber chappals aware that in a few hours she might be carrying them in her hands. She will carefully balance her bag on her head, and set out. And then, many times in chest-deep water, Barman would call on the pregnant and the sick, the old and the young, and in the last three months, seek out those who might be showing signs of a fever, a cold, or a cough. In the evening, she will wash up, sanitising everything from her watch to her bicycle, before entering her house.

Floods might be as old as Assam, but fighting a pandemic in knee-deep water is a whole new challenge for even the most seasoned health worker.

Barman, and her colleagues, are the foundation of the ‘Assam Community Surveillance Program’ — coordinated by the National Health Mission (NHM) — which does door-to-door checks in rural Assam, to find people who might show signs of being infected by the novel coronavirus, as well as malaria and Japanese Encephalitis. It is an exercise that has covered more than 30,000 villages so far with a battalion of ASHAs, anganwadi workers (AWWs), auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), multi-purpose workers (MPWs), surveillance inspectors, lab technicians, and doctors, spread out across the state during a debilitating flood. The preliminary screenings involve the workers identifying people with symptoms, doctors take the final call on testing.

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The Indian Express, 12 July, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/facebook-stories-of-strength-2020/governing-the-crisis/assam-community-workers-battle-pandemic-floods-6501494/


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