Yadari Ramadevi has been an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) with Lepra for 14 years. Yadari is 38 years old, married and has two children. Yadari’s husband is a contract laborer at the local cement factory. They have both experienced disruptions at work and home relating to the COVID-19 epidemic in their area.
Yadari works out of the Buchavaram Primary Health Care Center (PHC), Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh. By August 2020, Andhra Pradesh had the third highest COVID-19 cases in the country, with 353,111 cases and all 13 districts affected by the disease.
Yadari (right) helps a beneficiary
The influx of migrant workers in the preceding five months from different parts of the state has increased the workload of our ASHAs. Monitoring arrivals, departures, health and wellbeing of the migrant worker population has been challenging. Nonetheless, the ASHA team performed their duties and ensured their contact details are given to all the villagers, especially the elderly, those with disabilities, ante-natal and post-natal cases, persons with lymphatic filariasis (LF) and leprosy, and those affected with HIV/AIDS. As COVID-19 cases began to rise, so did the need for a greater reach of awareness and follow ups.
The major challenge faced by everyone within the communities was a lack of public transport to reach services. A great deal of planning was required to adequately reach the populations in need of medical attention, and with the support of the PHC team and local NGOs, we were able to arrive at such reach-out strategies.
This was at a cost. Long working days, and repetitive exposure to potential COVID-19 cases put a great deal of pressure on not just the ASHAs, but their families too. Yadari’s husband, who had always been extremely supportive and encouraging of her ASHA work, was struggling to come to terms with the personal risk Yadari was putting on herself.
“It is just their love towards me that gives them a fear that is only natural. Some of our team members dropped out due to the stressful nature of the situation. Swirls of rumours plagued the communities and this made our work more challenging. My own fear and anxiety, coupled with the withdrawal of support from my family members, was very upsetting. But we have to save lives, and that is what I aim to do.”
Outreach health care services are invaluable. To keep going and cope with these worries, Yadari reached out to Lepra staff, the PHC Medical Officer and her supervisor for support.
“I want to personally thank Mr. Venkateswara Rao, from Lepra, who encouraged me, and instilled confidence to handle my issues both mentally and physically. The Lepra team and PHC also provided me with all the information, counselling techniques, follow up strategies and need-based referral information that I needed to support and reassure the families I help. I’m also happy to report that with the help of Lepra, none of the persons affected with Leprosy and LF had any delay to their treatment.”
Yadari discussed the huge benefit her work is doing within the community with her husband and family members, and why their support was intrinsic to her being able to carry out her role effectively. Yadari’s husband now passes on her knowledge about COVID-19 to his workplace, which they find reassuring and helps them to manage their anxiety in relation to the pandemic. After all, we are all in this together.
Lepra wants to thank Yadari for her courage and selfless dedication to her work. Lives have indeed been saved.