India’s wounds from the deadly second wave have not healed yet, and we are facing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last few days, and with the highly infectious Omicron variant dominating cases, it is feared that the case numbers will be exponentially higher that what we saw during the first and the second wave.
While India achieved a significant milestone of administering more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccination doses in October 2021, it remains a matter of concern that at the end of 2021 a large number of eligible population (36%) has still not received both the doses. Even if there is less than the predicted cases for the third wave, the people needing hospitalisation, may once again overwhelm the health system.
ActionAid Association is continuing to play its part in helping deal with this continuing crisis across the 24 states and 2 UTs where it works in. Contributions of the organization have been twofold – supporting governments and administrations in its efforts to strengthen the health services and the preparedness as well as reaching out to vulnerable communities,in creating awareness, addressing issues of vaccine hesitancy, mobilizing and encouraging the community for vaccination, and also helping rebuild lives and livelihoods for those severely impacted by the first and the second wave of the pandemic.
During the second wave, ActionAid Association worked closely with government authorities in over 100 districts helping set up COVID Care Centres, isolation units and augmenting medical infrastructure through setting up of oxygen plants, provisioning of beds, ventilators, laryngoscope and other basic medical supplies. Currently, our teams are visiting these centres to review and take an assessment of their functionality and preparedness. Even as we speak two oxygen plants of 182 LPM and 250 LPM each, are being installed, in Chennai and Tiruvannāmalaidistricts of Tamil Nadu. Last week, Swasthya Samitis across 35 panchayats in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Deogarhin Jharkhandhave been handed over 25 kits each consisting of basic medical supplies including medicines needed for COVID prevention.
Dipali Sharma, Director Organisational Effectiveness, ActionAid Association India says, “Considering the fact that there exist significant disparities in vaccination coverage for reasons of access, coupled with the factor of vaccine hesitancy, ActionAid Association is specifically targeting specific geographies and communities. Mass awareness programmes are being carried out in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab, where vaccination coverage is lagging behind. We are reaching out to tribal pockets, the NT DNT communities, the pastoralists and people with disabilities.
Now that vaccination has been opened up for the adolescent population between 15-18 age group, ActionAid Association teams have started reaching out to this group through schools and kishori/kishor groups that we have set up in our programme intervention areas. On January 3rd 2022, the first day when vaccination for this age group was announced, our volunteers helped over 500 children in Muzaffarpur and 40 children in interior Madepura, in Bihar get the first dose. Registration and vaccination process for this age group is being supported across states. As our preparedness for the possible fallout of the third wave with curbs and restrictions, teams are getting ready for the distribution of dry rations and cooked food to the most needy and vulnerable.
With the impact of the first and the second wave of the pandemic on the livelihoods of a vast section of poor and marginalized communities in the informal sector, ActionAid Association has been working to support individual and collective livelihoods which includes setting up of a dairy and a horticulture unit in Bihar and Jharkhand, supporting women’s collectives for farming, poultry, goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, jewelry making, embroidery, sanitary napkin making etc. Campaigns have been carried out to register informal sector workers on the e-SHRAM portal and to demand work under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act.