We Have Your Back

Thursday, May 21, 2020
Community Health Officer Anusha in Sikkam, India
Photo: NISHTHA

“Care for everyone and always have each other’s back.” These are the values that Anusha (who, like many in her community, goes by only her first name) grew up with. She is a Community Health Officer (CHO) at the Phongla Health and Wellness Center in Sikkim, a small, mountainous state in the northeast of India. Like other states in India and across the globe, health providers in Sikkim are working to protect their communities from the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to provide the essential primary health services their patients depend on. 

The Phongla Health and Wellness Center, part of the Government of India's Ayushman Bharat universal health coverage program, provides comprehensive primary health care services--including care to mothers and children and adolescents, care for communicable and noncommunicable diseases, emergencies and mental health services--to a population of 5,000 people. 

As the pandemic spreads across India, Anusha is particularly concerned about the mothers in her community, especially women with high-risk pregnancies and those who cannot visit the health facility.  “As a woman, I understand how pregnant women and lactating mothers must be feeling [right now].  Many tell me that they felt stressed and not sure how to protect themselves and their children from COVID-19,” says Anusha.

Anusha is now providing door-to-door antenatal care check-ups, immunization, and key family planning services, using the opportunity to provide accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19 prevention. To help calm worried mothers, she relies on the virtual training she and 138 CHOs in Sikkim received through USAID’s NISHTHA project on the measures community members can take to prevent COVID-19. “They usually come to me for all their health-related problems. I refer to the training materials to clarify all their doubts and assure them that they and their babies are safe if they practice infection prevention and control. It’s an immense satisfaction to see their worries go away,” says Anusha.

As she gets up and gets ready to leave to check on her next patient, Anusha has an important message: “I want these vulnerable women to know that the whole state with its entire health taskforce is working to prevent COVID-19 and to keep everyone safe. We’ve got their back.”

Last updated: July 13, 2020

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