Adapting at the Community Level During COVID-19
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our collective health and safety has forced many communities, businesses, and non-profit organizations to creatively adapt their operations. To help contain the novel coronavirus, particularly in low-resource communities where barriers to healthcare are often greatest, SightLife’s cadre of 637 local community health workers in India have broadened their remit in corneal blindness prevention to include handwashing and face mask education, helping to save lives while continuing to improve corneal health outcomes during the pandemic.
One such community health worker is Alimun Nisha, a mother of five in Uttar Pradesh, who didn’t hesitate to build on her work screening and treating corneal ulcers to help local administration and public health officials raise awareness and monitor the spread as well as impact of COVID-19 in her community. For Alimun, the added scope of work fit seamlessly with her existing duties and highlights the potential of integrated community health care delivery moving forward.
It also couldn’t have been done without Alimun’s talent and big heart.
Having worked as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) since 2006, Alimun was already a sangini, or ASHA supervisor, and widely recognized as a community health leader throughout the Biswan block of the Sitapur District. When COVID-19 hit, she helped mobilize residents with the knowledge and tools they needed to keep themselves and their loved ones safe during the pandemic. And yet, her remarkable contributions protecting and strengthening her community’s health didn’t end there.
When 14 district residents were quarantined after potential exposure to the virus, Alimun ensured the families of these individuals, who rely on daily wages to make ends meet, would still be supported. In parallel with her continued prevention work screening patients, she cooked three meals a day for each of them while her eldest daughter, Sana, who works as a nurse, pledged two months of her salary to help purchase additional food for their families.
Every day, Sana additionally visited the quarantine facility to track patient body temperature and symptoms. She also donated individual bars of soap to help her mother prevent contamination and promote best practices in sanitation and hygiene. With their combined help and support, each community member in quarantine was eventually cleared and released after 14 days away from their families.
In face of COVID-19’s many challenges and constraints, Alimun’s willingness to build on her expertise as a frontline community health worker speaks volumes to her altruistic nature and commitment to ensuring health is within reach for all people regardless of station. It also demonstrates what’s possible when community health care delivery is people-centered during—and beyond—times of crisis.