The second wave of Covid-19 has the whole of India in its grip. The state of Rajasthan is under strict lockdown. Udaipur and parts of southern Rajasthan are severely impacted. Unlike last year, this time the rural region has been hit hard and large numbers of patients are reported from the villages.
A considerable number of Seva Mandir staff and their families have gone down with Covid since the last week of March. With the virus spreading deeper into the villages, the NGO is now working to support rural communities as effectively as it can whilst protecting staff, village volunteers, community leaders and of course villagers from viral transmission.
If you are able to donate now, you will be helping Seva Mandir to provide aid to people who really need help.
Seva Mandir is focusing on three main areas.
Providing communities with reliable information
There is a real need for accurate information to counter the many myths doing the rounds (e.g. that the vaccine kills, that it will stop people being able to work in the fields) and to help people know what to do if a family member becomes ill.
Seva Mandir uses a mixture of communication tools (social media, pamphlets, wall paintings etc.) to disseminate information on the following:
- Vaccination – encouraging uptake where available, positive stories from local vaccine champions, explaining what to expect, and dispelling dangerous myths
- Identification of the disease, home isolation and monitoring of patients – helping to explain and identify degrees of seriousness of a patient’s condition through oxygen level and temperature
- Timely referrals – when and where to go for medical help (to healthcare facilities, where available, rather than to the ubiquitous quacks with unproven remedies)
Supporting families who need to self-isolate at home
Self-isolation at home is not easy in rural villages where houses are small and several family members share limited facilities. In practice, if one member of a family shows signs of the virus, it is best to treat all members as asymptomatic cases and isolate entire families. Seva Mandir’s team can help support families (and reinforce the work of government workers) by helping to explain the importance of self-isolating and how to do this. They can also explain how to monitor the health of those showing symptoms of the virus, and hope to be able to deliver medical kit (including thermometers, oximeters and medicines recommended by doctors) and train family members to use them and to record findings. They can also help distribute food, soaps, masks and other necessities.
Seva Mandir plans to set up a helpline enabling volunteer doctors to advise people over the phone.
Helping communities with prevention and care
Since last year, Seva Mandir has been helping communities understand the importance of preventing infection by means of social distancing, hygiene, mask-wearing etc. This is even more crucial now that the virus is spreading fast through the villages.
It is wedding season in India at the moment, and these traditionally large gatherings are such an important part of local culture that it is not easy to dissuade people from holding the long-planned events or to persuade them to reduce numbers. In the current situation, with transport limited and the cost of transport higher than usual, wedding-goers are crowding into fewer vehicles with increased risks of viral transmission.
Seva Mandir is campaigning to stop social gatherings, and working to encourage panchayats (village-level government bodies) to ensure strict adherence to Covid protocols. They are also talking to community leaders about the importance of not discriminating against families in isolation but rather arranging support for them.
In all of these measures, Seva Mandir will continue to collaborate with local government, other NGOs and the private sector. It will also help with further planning and data collection in the villages.
Seva Mandir is ideally placed to make a difference
Seva Mandir’s 50+ years of experience and deep knowledge of the rural communities with which it works put it in an ideal position to provide much of the help and support that rural people desperately need right now. Seva Mandir’s field and head office staff have been working with local communities for decades and have gained their trust. Almost all local staff are recruited from the villages they serve (whether as teachers, healthcare workers or women who run the child day-care centres), so they are known and respected members of the community, and their advice carries weight.
Across the world, misinformation about the virus, the vaccine and preventative measures is rife. In a largely tribal area (consisting of some of the very poorest, least educated people in some of the least developed areas of the world), Seva Mandir has spent decades persuading rural people of the benefits of many of the services it has provided (from immunisation of children and pregnant women against commonplace but deadly diseases, to toilets, clean drinking water, and effective farming methods). Seva Mandir staff know that it is not enough to provide toilets, or nurses to give injections, but that it is vital to explain patiently, over a period of time, why it is important to use these facilities. People’s resistance to new things is based on deeply held beliefs and Seva Mandir knows that information, persuasion and respect are much more effective in achieving behaviour change than compulsion. In this respect too, the NGO is ideally placed to help the rural people of southern Rajasthan cope with the crisis.
Can you help Seva Mandir to support rural villagers through this medical emergency?
Any donation you are able to make to the Friends of Seva Mandir will enable Seva Mandir to continue to help some of the poorest people in the world navigate this second wave of Covid-19. You can donate here.