Search
+
    ET Spotlight Initiative

    Softening the blow: How #VirusPeVijay campaign helped one of the most vulnerable groups tide over the COVID-19 crisis

    Synopsis

    The fight against COVID-19 especially during the lockdown, needed many hands and partners, as the world entered a global paralysis of sorts, the fight against this pandemic was too big for the government to handle alone

    ET Spotlight
    When epidemics or pandemics occur, vulnerable groups such as people affected by leprosy, people with disability and marginalised sections of society, are usually affected disproportionately. The impact threatens to deepen existing vulnerabilities, doubling unemployment, loss of income, food insecurity, malnutrition, and barriers to health care.

    Take the example of Vijay. Happiness was never an option for 45-year-old Vijay Bahadur, who lives with his wife, five daughters and son in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. Vijay was diagnosed with leprosy eight years ago, but because of delayed diagnosis and treatment, he developed clawed hand, a leprosy-related disability. Vijay underwent reconstructive surgery to correct his claw hand and that restored the function of his hand. Shortly, his son also was diagnosed with leprosy and he too ended up having a disability.

    Both Vijay and his son are cured of leprosy as they had been treated with multidrug therapy (MDT), the effective cure for leprosy. Vijay worked as a daily wage labourer but could not earn enough to support his large family. To supplement the family income, his wife ran a small shop. Somehow, they pulled on. But it did not last long.

    TLMTI 1ET Spotlight


    The COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation, and the lockdown followed. The impact was devastating. Vijay’s family lost their livelihood, like thousands of other daily wage labourers. With no savings to fall back on, the family was almost on the verge of starvation. Vijay tried to take a loan, but that did not help. The family survived on wheat and rice provided by the government, but they needed money to buy other essentials. For days, they survived only on rice, onion and salt. A helpless Vijay says, “Hum to bhok mari ke kagar par aa gaye the” (We had reached the stage of starving).

    Like Vijay, scores of people affected by leprosy were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose. With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured. But if left untreated, it can lead to disabilities.

    As per the World Health Organization, 208,619 new leprosy cases were detected in 127 countries in 2018. Of them, 120, 334 cases were in India. India accounts for 57.68% of the global burden. This means, every 4 minutes, 1 person was diagnosed with leprosy in India. This also means that in most cases, family members of that one person face the potential threat of community ostracization because of stigma associated with the disease.

    TLMTI 2ET Spotlight


    The fight against COVID-19 especially during the lockdown, needed as many hands and partners. As the world entered a global paralysis of sorts, the fight against this pandemic was too big for the government to handle alone. Amid the massive disruption caused by the pandemic, local non-government organizations (NGOs) and civil society organisations responded to fill in the gaps of communication and delivery of essential items to underserved communities.

    People affected by leprosy are extremely vulnerable, suffer age old stigma and risk being cast aside amid the coronavirus crisis. The lack of public transport during lockdown made it impossible for those affected by leprosy to seek medical intervention for their treatment. Many people undergoing treatment with associated disabilities and comorbid medical conditions like non – healing ulcers, amputation, eye problems, diabetes, chest problems, were not able to travel for medical supplies, food, or rations.

    In the face of these challenges, The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) , drawing on more than 146 years of experience, stepped in to implement social assistance interventions to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and the abrupt lockdown. This, they did by reaching out to those most marginalised, pushed further into severe poverty and hunger through its relief measures, immediate medical attention to those unable to access it and mitigate the spread of virus, through proactive measures like an awareness campaign #VirusPeVijay! The campaign was rolled out in hard to reach areas, among tribal populations and dark media areas demonstrating value as a partner to the government.

    Here’s how The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) has been helping one of the most vulnerable groups to tide over the COVID-19 crisis:

    Relief and response work through distribution of ration, grocery items and community kitchens
    While responding to the coronavirus emergency by providing relief to the most vulnerable, TLMTI found Vijay and his family in dire need and the family was immediately provided with all rations, hygiene, and sanitation kit for his daughters. While receiving the support, Vijay got emotional and expressed his gratitude.

    TLMTI is present in 10 states of the country, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. They have enabled many families like Vijay’s to fight poverty amid this unprecedented crisis by providing 59,276 people with cooked meals, 8,000 people with dry grocery and rations, and 3,000 people with sanitation kits.

    TLMTI 3ET Spotlight


    Awareness-raising
    TLMTI developed a COVID-19 customised awareness campaign with focus on symptoms and prevention, busting myths, providing information on mental well-being, care at-home under lockdown, and encouraging social distancing in different vernacular mediums. This was required because the information and awareness disseminated by the government was not reaching all. Special attention was given to reach vulnerable people at all community levels, while communicating measures advised by the government to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.

    TLMTI ensured that the key messages of this campaign reached the target communities and encouraged them to join the fight in defeating the spread of the virus. Community challenges were an interesting part of the campaign that brought about social and behaviour change. A different theme each week successfully garnered community attention, participation, and ownership. Some of the challenges have been, ‘Kaun Marega Corona Ko’, ‘Mera Ghar Virus Free’, Mask Pe Charcha’, ‘Apna Bhi Time Ayega’!

    VirusparvijyET Spotlight

    TLMTI 5ET Spotlight


    Mobile therapy clinics
    Apart from diving deep into providing relief services during the unprecedented times, another challenge was to ensure that people affected by leprosy facing barriers to healthcare, received timely medical interventions and ulcer treatment because if immunocompromised, can contract infection faster and increased complications would lead to increased disabilities.

    But TLMTI brought an innovative solution to this problem. As part of the hospital’s community ulcer care management, using mobile clinics, they took healthcare services to the doorsteps of those who needed it the most, such as the people affected by leprosy. Through this initiative, patients had their ulcers (a complication of leprosy) cleaned and dressed. The team also supplied medicines to the patients to ensure they get their regular medicines. These mobile clinics served as invaluable resources for the persons affected by leprosy and even managed to set up video consultation with the doctors at the hospital to treat complicated cases. More than 1,000 people were given treatment through these mobile clinics.

    TLMTI 6ET Spotlight
    TLMTI’s Occupational Therapist examining an elderly patient, Pattu in need of immediate medical attention for her ulcers and skin issues, in the mobile clinic. She complained of eyesight issues as well. TLMTI’s doctor through video conferencing advised immediate treatment, medicines and new pair of glasses, which was purchased and given to the patient.


    Innovation in protective measures against the pandemic
    It is needless to mention that there was a dearth of protective measures and equipment especially in rural areas. This includes face masks, face shields, thermal scanner, sanitizer etc. What should get a special mention is the mobilisation of communities brought about by TLMTI to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus by creating a supply and understanding on the use of preventive measures. TLMTI started a drive called ‘Mask Movement’ to provide masks to the communities in the underserved and tribal areas.

    The staff and spouses of staff and patients stitched masks for free distribution. One of TLMTI’s Project produced cost-effective face shields, which were distributed to all COVID volunteers, health and sanitation workers/inspectors and staff working in the containment zones in Cuddalore district. These face shields were also distributed to medical staff in Chidambaram Rajah Muthaiah Medical College as they are treating COVID-19 positive cases. In no time, there emerged self-help groups who stitched face masks and supplied them to vulnerable communities. They also taught them the correct way to wear a mask and the importance of wearing one as protection from the virus. More than 25,000 people were provided with face masks and approximately 10,00,000 people have benefitted from these awareness activities.

    TLMTI 7ET Spotlight


    Tele-counselling
    TLMTI set up tele counselling centers to answer people’s questions about COVID-19 and leprosy. People with no or little knowledge about the pandemic received correct information about COVID-19 and about treatment of leprosy. The team at TLMTI also broadcasted short videos giving contacts of volunteers who could be contacted anytime to raise queries. These volunteers could speak in local languages, making the communication easier and effective. More than 4,000 people were helped through tele-counselling.

    "People affected by leprosy are one of the most marginalised sections of society because of the age-old stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them more than any other vulnerable groups. As an organisation, we believe, it is our duty to support them to tide over the present crisis." Dr. Mary Verghese, Executive Director, TLMTI.
    (This article is generated and published by ET Spotlight team. You can get in touch with them on etspotlight@timesinternet.in)
    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

    2 Comments on this Story

    raaj till35 days ago
    Govt is only helping cronies in the name of economic easing to boost share prices on air bubbled statement . Under MNREGA why does not the Govt Construct pucka houses in tribal areas and let people do micro work from homes. But No;; we have eagles, predators, sponges who swoop on them like parasites extracting rent threatening ;work is illegal pay bribes and cripple them... every day news items appear fake /real municipal electricity parasites harassing lower economic strata dwellers in the name of enforcement of regulation drawn by rent extracting Burdencrats ...
    Suresh Kamath40 days ago
    These type of NGOs who interact with the RURAL Populations of the Country MUST be Complimented for their Thankless Community Healing Projects and Govt along with many ELITE CLASS must encourage these to do more for many other AREAS with equipment and Finances wherever NEEDED and such wide reach into these RURAL Areas will find good HEALTHY Bodies and with personal Hygiene practices understood by these PEOPLE of such AREAS INDIA would soon have lower Deaths due to diseases and CAN have SKILLED Youths in Villages to help Improve the Living with a better Lifestyle for ALL
    GRAND SALUTE to Members of this Project Team who attend to these afflicted vulnerable Groups with CONFIDENCE to heal these to GOOD HEALTH and teach these better Hygiene and SHIELD them from COVID AWARENESS and live their LIFE well too
    The Economic Times