About a month back when the COVID-19 cases started to come up in India, ASHA workers were quickly mobilised by, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to act as per the Micro Plan for Containing Local Transmission of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to do contact tracing of COVID-19 positive cases and to create awareness among the residents of their communities. Furthermore, ASHA workers visit the quarantined houses every day to ensure the members of the house weren’t violating their quarantine in addition to providing them health assistance as required.
Who are ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers? When we think of healthcare and health care workers we only think about doctors, nurses and maybe lab technicians to an extent. There is a silent yet powerful force of healthcare workers who are called ASHA(An Accredited Social Health Activist) and Anganwadi workers. Women aged 25-45 from local communities make up the ASHA and Anganwadi workers. They are from the same locality to which they are assigned. The reason why many of us hardly know about these women is that when we live in cities and go to big private hospitals and clinics this force is invisible. Nonetheless, governments across states use this force to deliver nutrition, healthcare to lakhs of disadvantaged women and children in our villages, towns and cities.
Anganwadi workers go a step further and even provide cooked meals and education to children below the ages of 5. Mrs Usha, an ASHA worker in Bangalore says, “I use my handkerchief as a mask every day. I was not given much training but whatever information I have got I am using it to spread awareness in my community. I am very proud of the work I am doing for my community.”
Just like how we ignore the health of our backbone, this force which does a thankless job is largely ignored. These workers go day in and day out to primary health care centres(PHCs) and Anganwadi centres, sometimes door to door to deliver health care services to lakhs of Indian women.