COVID 19 pandemic has severely impacted around 55 lakh people in India. Communities have been affected tremendously. The low-skilled migrant community which comes at the bottom of the pyramid are at risk and exposed to social, financial, health and mental distress the most.
It has also been a challenge for us as a program implementation and management organization to ensure how we can be working with people and provide need-based support when they need us the most. It’s also clearly decided that all levels of employees need to travel to the program regions, be with people in these challenging times and provide vital support through various program activities.
ASK is committed to protecting its employees and communities from the impact of COVID 19 therefore we strategized a guideline to follow for all the precautions to be taken and followed during field operations:
● All regional travels will be by flight and not in buses, trains. Local travel will be done by own bike, taxi from a safe transport agency and not in auto rickshaws or buses
● The project team will assess COVID cases in the recognized village as per government information/data before the visit
● The meetings/training in the villages that have either less or no cases will be administered physically whereas the same will be administered online for the participants living in red zone areas
● The meetings/training to be conducted into small groups not surpassing 5 to 10. If required only one to one visit & interaction
● Thermal screening of everyone before meeting/training starts.
● The facilitators and the participant should wear masks and use sanitizers, and maintain a distance of at least 3 meters from each other
● Wash your hands repeatedly with soap while in the field or office
● Avoid spitting
● Avoid touching your face while you are in the field or office.
● All field activities particularly meeting and training should be conducted in sterile places. The project office premise should be cleaned every day (Including all touchpoints) with sanitizer or disinfectants
● Any employee or community participants having any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 will not be included in any field activity
● Any employee or community participants having any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 should be authorized to work from home and refer them to the relevant doctors/clinic/hospital
● Facilitators/trainers should make sure that there is no large gathering while conducting field level activities
● The meeting/training should have COVID information snapshot at the beginning of the training.
● Carry your own food/ get it packed from the accommodation
● Only one person should travel in the motorbike used by the project team.
● Avoid taking lift while traveling to or from the field.
● field equipment to be sanitised
● Do not spread any rumours related to COVID 19.
● Any employee reported COVID 19 positive should be informed to a government hospital as well as the Nodal officer for COVID 19 prevention and care at ASK
● All employees are insured for COVID 19
Despite all measures of precaution taken, there remained reluctance and fear of the life-threatening pandemic in the minds of the team members. The Program Director took the lead and went to the project location with necessary safety equipment and initiated the project with precautions. This was undertaken to ensure that the delivery of project activities is safe.
Q. We are seeing some hard time in our lifetime due to COVID-19 and surely every income group is facing the adversity. But the weakest income group can be seeing bearing its brunt largely. As ASK from the last 25 years has been working with the bottom of the pyramid- how are you dealing with the situation ?
A: The coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown in India is not just a public health crisis. It is also an economic crisis. It had direct impact on families and community which includes, nutrition intake, health and source of revenue to meet basic needs. The bottom of the pyramid is always the most vulnerable with larger impact . During this crisis the minimum ASK could do was to ensure reach out and continuous engagement. ASK was early to reach them to ensure and mitigate the impact. ASK India constantly engaged with the project team and the community through its local partners in raising awareness on the safety measures to be adopted to prevent infection and also encouraging community leaders to take lead in spreading awareness at village level. We provided relief packages in our two project areas in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
Our team started travelling to field in the month of July, hence established how important is the relationship between us and the community as these are testing times and we believe in solidarity. The community gets the sense of protection and confides their trust in us.
The importance of rural economy and strengthening the rural ecosystem cannot be debated anymore and now is the time to invest and strengthen the rural economy for greater participation of women, youth and men to address the growing social and economic challenges and restore their well being and livelihood.