Mission Manjri is a citizen-led initiative and a joint effort of multiple NGOs that offer free consultations, medicines, oximeters and other essentials in remote belts of UP and Haryana. A group of trained volunteers keep a check on mild cases of COVID and keep them from turning into severe ones in places where access to medical care is sparse.
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Sachin Kumar, a volunteer who spearheads this effort in the villages of Meerut district, UP, says, “To make them aware of the situation is the most difficult task. We follow a treatment protocol – to get people tested, prescribe proper medications with imparting knowledge of self-isolation. We also recommended a prone position for very mild patients who did not require medications.”
He has also distributed pulse oximeters to a team of ASHA workers and some doctors, who then carry forward the initiative by ensuring an appropriate course of action to each patient. The team also started making daily announcements for generating awareness among people on how to take self-care, what to eat and how to keep the surroundings healthy. Earlier, the approach was to attend to the patients individually. But now, the process has decentralized through Gram Pradhans and Gram Panchayats. As village people obey their local head, it becomes easier to pass on the necessary communication through these local chiefs. It helps in the long run as these chiefs would ensure to keep their villages safe and sane.
As the hamlets could be far in villages, teleconsultation is one way to relieve the fear. Speaking to Mr Mukesh Dhillon, a senior resident of cardiology, AIIMS, he informed us about the process of communication he maintained with the patients. “Sometimes we are not able to work on the ground level for everyone, but through teleconsultation, I lessen the fear related to medical jargon and explain to them the right thing in their language. In rural areas, patients believe more in superstition rather than truth, so all efforts go in curbing the misinformation and make them believe in verified sources.”
He explains that the situation in distant hinterlands is different from what catches the headlines. As the primary health centres aren’t easily accessible, they may get wrong consultations and consider jaundice as viral fever. He has to describe the symptoms of COVID to people so that if they experience something, they need to get tested for the same. But, recently, he has started noticing positive results about his invested efforts.
Dr Parveen Kundu, managing director at RML Imaging Therapy and Research Centre in Rohtak, Haryana, shares her experience. She says, “I have to treat many aged people like kids because sometimes it is difficult to see them adapt to change within their custom lives. Be it self-medication or a blind belief in someone recovered, people there try everything except a doctor’s advice. Initially, we had to change our image of an outsider, and now after seeing a positive result, people trust our work.”As there are no gold standards set for recovering from COVID, they prescribe cost-effective but proven methods of hygiene, self-isolation, timely vaccination, etc. The team has also created and distributed manuals on how to follow COVID guidelines and stop transmission.
Still, the focus involves social behaviour and changing patterns of perspective around COVID. Dr Sandeep Agarwal, Associate professor of clinical medicine, shares that because people live in close communities in these areas, they need to be informed earlier to prevent infecting more people in the vicinity. Also, as people see the news and social media forward messages too often, they tend to run from medication or isolation. We spend most of the time educating them about these important things.
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Dr Vikram Saini, from AIIMS, shares that in the rural areas, where people don’t know the usage of a smartphone, it becomes pretty difficult for them to access the vaccine slots. Also, due to the distant centres and excess population, people don’t visit medical centres. They consider it a luxury to be doing so. This thought needs to be changed. As India faces a shortage of doctors, the case is worrying in the case of rural areas. He is working on the capacity building of the volunteers and ensuring that more contribution would solve the problems. The team is planning to leverage the potential of technology in combating the virus. The planning includes developing an app to maintain one point contact of a patient. Dr Dinesh says, “Even in NCR, many people receive fake information on bed availability, oxygen cylinders, Remdesivir supply, etc. We have been working actively in informing them about the real-time updates and advising them for consultation before a quick decision.”
The team of Mission Manjri believes that more frontline workers are needed to be involved in the mission. From guidelines in the local language to awareness around vaccination, the track of communication should be clear. The team is currently amping the locals to adept themselves in managing this situation on their own. Such that this mission could plant its seed in another remote hamlet that needs their immediate attention.