India: "Mumbai is still seeing more than 3000 new cases of COVID every day"

Santosh Choure - Health Promotion Manager

10 May 21

Mumbai is still seeing more than 3000 new cases of COVID every day. People are scared and many of them don’t prefer to get tested even though they have symptoms, as they’re afraid of being quarantined or Hospitalized and separated from their family members.

Raising awareness in the community

MSF is working in M-East Ward in Mumbai, one of the densely populated administrative division having 70% of its population living in slums, which also stands lowest on human development index.

I manage a team of 10 health promoters and we’re expecting 10-12 more very soon.

The team is tasked to raise awareness in the community in different ways; community health workers travel through the narrow lanes of the informal settlements on tuk-tuks (Auto Rikshaws) delivering COVID prevention messages through loud speakers and sharing information on COVID services available at ward level. 

MSF’s Health Promotion Team in Mumbai using Auto-Rikshaw (tuktuk) to generate COVID-19 awareness among the most vulnerable population living in informal settlement pockets of M-East Ward.

We conduct handwashing demonstration sessions and meetings in the community with slum-dwellers, patients waiting in public and private health care centres, private sector doctors and health workers.

We also reinforce the messages about wearing masks, social distancing and other ways COVID can be prevented.

Shagufta Sayyed, Community Health Educator for Mumbai’s COVID-19 Intervention demonstrating handwashing steps as part of COVID-19 health promotion, infection and prevention activities.

"Now many more people are wearing masks"

It’s hard when 5 or 6 people live together in small houses that might only be 10ft x 10ft but we request that they wear masks and observe social distancing in the lanes and markets.

Any one with symptoms is linked to the nearest testing center and requested to wear a mask at home and isolate if possible.

We’ve been doing health promotion work in the community continuously since June 2020

Shagufta Sayyed, Community Health Educator conducting educational talk with independent at the MSF’s independent clinic in Mumbai, India.

When there were less cases in December and January people were more likely to ignore the messaging but now many more people are wearing masks.

We’re also doing digital health promotion reaching thousands of people on Facebook with videos and messaging, especially the younger generation who is active on social media.

A female resident of slum rehabilitation colony in M-East Ward, Mumbai interacting with Health Educators during Awareness campaign. One of the main issue the health educators emphasis is the  consistent use and management of masks.

Helping to protect the vulnerable

Another important part of our work is helping protect particularly vulnerable people; drug-resistant TB and HIV patients, those with diabetes or hypertension or the elderly.

Health Educators delivering COVID-19 preventive messages through Auto-Rikshaw (tuktuk) as part of mass health promotion campaign in M-East Ward informal settlements of Mumbai

This intervention is called shielding and we aim to reach out to more than 5000 families, providing them with hygiene kits including masks, soaps, and-sanitisers and floor cleaner to help them protect themselves as well as staying in contact with them on weekly basis by phone providing regular health promotion information, advice and counselling.

An Auto-Rikshaw (tuktuk) visiting alley lanes of Mumbai’s M-East Ward slums to generate COVID-19 Awareness

The teams are working really hard

To begin with some had concerns but we’ve done a lot of safety training and we also provide mental health support.

We’re all part of this community and are really motivated to help as much as we can.

MSF’s Health Educator conducting educational talk on mask management’ with a street- hawker in M-East Ward, Mumbai.

But we need more people and more actors doing health promotion to promote covid-19 appropriate behaviour and testing.

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