March 15, 2021

SAKHI and SAKHA Cadre of Youth ENGAGE IN COVID-19 Prevention in Assam Tea Gardens

While the world was turned upside down in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic, in India, LEHS|WISH was actively providing technical support to state-governments in their containment and response strategy to combat the disease in the states of Assam, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.  In addition, the big challenge facing LEHS|WISH was how to ensure continuation of essential primary healthcare services to the last-mile communities in their catchment area in the five states during the pandemic, while also educating their frontline health workers and population-at-large about COVID-19 prevention protocols.  

It is said that some of the best ideas evolve during a crisis. As an innovative thinker of technology-driven solutions, LEHS|WISH swung into action.  The result was several well-designed and customizable on-line trainings for frontline healthcare professionals on COVID-19 identification and containment strategies, updated regularly in the ever-changing protocol environment.  Over 950 training sessions to more than fifteen thousand healthcare providers were delivered.  

Front Line Workers looking at the IEC materials provided by WISH
Front Line Workers looking at IEC materials

Next, in order to educate the general population on the prevention and containment of the pandemic, new programs were designed for community-awareness and disease-prevention. For example, in Assam, a youth-engagement program called COVID-19 SAKHI for females and COVID-19 SAKHA for males, was launched in May 2020 to ensure the delivery of the right message on COVID-19 prevention to community members, while also encouraging them to continue seeking primary healthcare when required.  Several youth enrolled with great enthusiasm and underwent LEHS|WISH trainings.  While they were given a stipend, their greatest motivation was to be recognized in the communities as agents of change and contribute towards the betterment of their communities.

Bindubai was one of the first young women of the cadre of 42 to join the COVID-19 SAKHI cadre at the tea-garden estates in Assam where her mother has been working for many years.  She received LEHS|WISH trainings on COVID-19 prevention and personal-hygiene strategies to engage and educate her local community members.  Armed with the right knowledge and tools, she mobilized tea-estate worker-community into several groups and has since sensitized nearly 1100 community members through 100 sensitization sessions on COVID-19 prevention strategies. She continues to lead as a community-champion and updates her own knowledge periodically with the latest protocols through the online training platform developed by LEHS|WISH.

 With her subject-matter knowledge, her competencies in public speaking, inter-personal relationships as well as communication skills have improved significantly.  Bindubai now conducts majority of the sessions by herself and is seen as an ambassador within her community.  

Rajen with his parents and brother

Similarly, Rajen Tanti is a member of COVID-19 SAKHA program.  With a desire to help his community combat COVID-19 pandemic, he also joined the cadre in May 2020 and received trainings from LEHS|WISH.  For the last nine months he has been assisting the tea-garden hospital and management teams with various COVID-19 awareness-generation activities and has educated over 1300 community members thus far.  

“It is a privilege to have helped so many people with the right knowledge and information as a COVID-19 SAKHA.  I can’t believe I have been able to bring about behavior change in so many community members related to COVID-19 prevention, as well as non-COVID related changes, such as alcoholism”, says Rajen.  

LEHS|WISH has also designed and launched a COVID-19 Dashboard that assists their Assam Program in daily monitoring of out-patient cases visiting the 6 Smart Hospitals at the Tea Gardens.  

The values of agility and out-of-the-box thinking is embedded within LEHS|WISH, which has allowed the organization to continually innovate and design customized solutions to address the issues of accessibility and availability of quality primary healthcare for the most marginalized communities.

Such ongoing innovation, combined with digital and technology-driven solutions, has enabled the organization to directly serve over 20 million beneficiaries in a short span of five years; and the goal is to serve 100 million people by 2027.