Project Incharge: 
Dr. Prema Nedungadi
Date: 
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Center: 
Tribal Center of Excellence
Amrita Centre for Advanced Research in Ayurveda
School: 
School of Ayurveda
School of Medicine

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Amrita COVID-19 Response

Amrita COVID-19 response for tribal communities

Amrita designed and delivered a holistic approach based on indentified knowledge gaps in COVID-19.

Health workers and a health coordinator from 4 villages in Odisha district were trained on COVID-19 response. The training was conducted by Ayurvedic and Allopathy doctors who:

  1. Designed a curriculum for health workers and tribal healers that incorporates the use of Ayurveda medicine for preventive care and the management of the common diseases.
  2. Trained health workers and tribal healers in the prevention and managment of COVID-19 infection according to up-to-date guidelines and information published by the Government of India.
  3. The training sessions were conducted in regional languages.
  4. Certification will be provided after thorough assessment of COVID-19 specific knowledge both orally and in writing (one month at Amrita, and 2 months on-site training).

Training included the following components:

  1. Introduction on the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the COVID-19 disease
  2. How does the virus spread?
  3. How to minimize the risk of being infected?
  4. Preventive measures based in Ayurveda.

During the Presentation

Classes: Six days a week, 1-2 hours per day through Google meet, Zoom or Whatsapp video calls.
Mode of teaching: 30-days training or sixty hours with discussions, video links, voice messages and PPTs.

After classes, all trainees were required to participate in field visits (house visit/telephonic awareness sessions) where they were training tribal communities on COVID-19.

 

 

Project feedback and outcomes:

  1. Feedback from majority of trainees was very positive, participants stated that they had recieved valuable training, and were getting information about Covid-19 of which they were had not been previously aware.
  2. Trainees attended all classes regularly and were keen to learn about the Covid-19 disease and what they can do to fight the disease.
  3. After classes, trainees sent regular updates and photos of their field visits (house visit/telephonic awareness sessions)
  4. Stigma: At the beginning of the program trainees were not aware about how to handle close contacts with villagers as they feared they would become infected. After the training, they understood the proper practices and also how to avoid social stigma.
  5. After finding positive cases: Some villagers were still not receptive to awareness and precaution measures given by the health workers. The health workers made additional calls/visits to tackle this problem.
  6. Tribal people: have difficulty in receiving any new information; it often takes time for them to accept new situations - this could be due to a fear of the unknown.

COVID Education Response

In addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, India saw an immediate and crucial need for underprivileged populations in remote, rural and tribal areas to be informed and given awareness regarding the disease. These populations usually lag behind in latest developments due to their remoteness and way of life. Information dispersion was necessary to ensure that timely steps could be taken to reduce disease spread and resultant loss of life. The COVID-19 pandemic also brought out the need for awareness about other issues besides prevention of disease spread in these areas. It demanded a new and further set of rules and enforcements to prevent contagion and loss of life. It also brought out the need for the awareness of

  • Prevention of disease spread
  • Prevention of stigmatisation
  • Prevention of violence against care-providers, and
  • Prevention of neglect of the afflicted.

With regard to this, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has reached out to tribal villages in the states of the country where the Amrita Tribal CoE is active, mainly Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Jharkhand. The total number of tribal villages impacted was 18. The total number of households in this area is 2199, with a combined population of 10,958. It is estimated that the actual spread of the information is exponentially more, due to the use of social media to disperse it to everyone on each person’s contact list.

The main challenges we encountered for dispersing awareness were:  restricted movement due to lockdown, low internet connectivity and poor electricity. However, we were able to disperse awareness with the help of local village workers on these above topics to a great extent.

The main spread of awareness has been through digital methods using mobile technology through tablets in the villages. The following were the methods adopted for the spread of awareness.

Methods Adopted

  • Early Awareness

On March 14, videos regarding COVID-19 were sent to village workers through whatsapp. Village workers from the communities did door-to-door house visits with tablets in hand, spoke to the villagers, and showed videos and awareness material regarding the necessity for frequent handwashing, personal hygiene, covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing, and wearing protective masks. In some places like Odhisha, group meetings were organised, although with proper precautions. 

Awareness was dispersed using tablets through videos, demonstrations and discussions. Teachers gave awareness while wearing a mask, practised distancing and carried soap with them to wash hands before and after house contact. Posters were put up in villages regarding handwashing and practising social distancing. 

The following topics were discussed. Videos were translated by the village workers into the local dialect.

  • How does COVID spread?
  • How to keep ourselves safe
  • Wearing Masks- How to make them
  • Proper handwashing
  • Social distancing
  • Personal hygiene
  • Maintaining cleanliness of home and surroundings
  • Harm of spitting in public places

In Orissa, door to door awareness was given in four tribal villages: Guptpada, Hardamada and Barapita, and Bindhyagiri in the Khurda distict.

Door-to-door awareness being given about COVID in Barapita tribal village, Odhisha

In Madhya Pradesh, awareness was given in four tribal villages- Juna Khattiwada, Gol Amba, Havelikheda and Muljipura.

House to House Awareness class in Alirajpur District tribal village cluster- Madhya Pradesh

In Madhya Pradesh, awareness was given in four tribal villages- Juna Khattiwada, Gol Amba, Havelikheda and Muljipura.

House to House Awareness- showing COVID video using tablet at Harirampura tribal village - Rajasthan

In Chhattisgarh, awareness was given in two tribal villages, Deurbal and Malgaaon.
 

House to House Awareness class in Malgaon tribal village- Chhattisgarh

In Kerala, two tribal villages, Komalikkudi in Idukki and Valaramkunnu in Wayanad, were given awareness.

Kerala- Village worker putting masks on tribal children

In Jharkhand, five tribal villages, Dewgain, Kerketta, Bundubera, Banduwa and Butiyo in the Ranchi district were given awareness.

Social Distance Awareness Class in Kerketta tribal village - Jharkhand
  • Awareness over whatsapp groups
    In the second phase of the interventions, village workers were sent awareness videos and images and asked to send it to all members in their contact list. The contacts were further asked to send it to everyone on their contact list. This ensured quick diffusion of relevant information in an exponential manner.

Screenshot of village-workers in a tribal village cluster of Alirajpur district being sent video and asked to send it out


Diffusion of Awareness:

 

Screenshot of Village workers sending it to their contacts.

  •  Awareness about returning migrant workers
    The issue of migrant workers returning to their villages posed a threat to village people who at first did not know what to do about them. There were instances where the returning migrants tried to run away from the village when the other villagers contacted the local police.
    Village workers were given the information regarding the right course of action for bringing their family back home, and we connected them to the respective authorities like the local police station, ward members and local panchayat officials. Village workers were also given awareness about treating the migrants with compassion and respect.
    In the tribal villages of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odhisha, and Jharkhand, returning migrants were taken care of by the local government authorities. They were quarantined in the panchayat bhavan or local school.
  • Awareness about treating Healthcare warriors with respect
    Seeing the rage and unruly behaviour towards healthcare workers, village workers were sent awareness material through whatsapp texta and images about treating healthworkers with respect. These were forwarded to other contacts.
  • Mask making and distribution
    Masks were made by our village workers and distributed to village people in Komalikkudi Tribal settlement, Idukki. Bison Valley, Idukki District, Kerala was declared a COVID hotspot.
    Village workers stitched masks and distributed them in tribal settlements of Idukki, Kerala. Awareness regarding proper use and reuse of masks was provided
Distribution of masks in Idukki, Kerala
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