"Mumbai is still seeing more than 3,000 new cases of COVID every day"
Doctors Without Borders 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. © Premananda Hessenkamp
I manage a team of 10 health promoters and we’re expecting 10 to 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.
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.
Auto-Rikshaw (tuktuk) used in an awareness campaign in slum rehabilitation colony in MEast Ward, Mumbai © Premananda Hessenkamp
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. Anyone with symptoms is linked to the nearest testing center and requested to wear a mask at home and isolate if possible.Santosh Choure, Health Promotion Manager
We’ve been doing health promotion work in the community continuously since June 2020. 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.
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. This intervention is called shielding and we aim to reach out to more than 5,000 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.Santosh Choure, Health Promotion Manager
The team 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. But we need more people and more actors doing health promotion to promote covid-19 appropriate behaviour and testing.