The second wave of COVID-19 has penetrated even the remotest of villages. It is no surprise that AID’s partner MBBCDS (Mohamad Bazaar Backward Classes Development Society) reports several cases from Birbhum, West Bengal, where it works. This is an update from our conversations with them. Also read about MBBCDS’ efforts to spread awareness about social distancing last year.
Strict adherence to COVID protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing, was largely relaxed during the past few months due to elections and religious festivals. This has now combined with a virulent virus to create the perfect storm. COVID has affected all the villages in the area causing fatalities in one of the villages, Paniara, where two people have died so far from the virus. The health infrastructure is barely coping: the nearest PHC is more than 10km from the village and is over capacity.
MBBCDS volunteers have been working overtime on awareness generation and on providing some primary care. They have been renting cars to cover 4-5 villages every day to broadcast COVID awareness messages using open microphones. They are also using phone/video conferencing calls to disseminate information. Masks and sanitizers have been distributed to different households. They have separated a house in Heruka village to use as an isolation center for COVID patients. The team of volunteers make food and distribute it to the patients. They have converted some local cars into COVID ambulances and arranged for oxygen cylinders.
MBBCDS further plans to work with the Government to use ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) centers and primary schools as isolation centers in case of emergency. There are also plans to have community kitchens for older people and also increase the number of ambulances to deal with the growing demand for critically ill patients that need to be transported.
Vaccine hesitancy is very real in the area. People are hesitant to take vaccines fearing death. Some people think that there is water mixed up with the original vaccine. There is also a strong belief that vaccines produced in India will be harmful for health. MBBCDS is working on awareness campaigns to bridge the information gap in this area.
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