Geeta Varma, an ASHA worker from Himachal Pradesh’s, Mandi district represents the face of around 12 lakh Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in India. These workers go beyond their call of duty, when it comes to saving precious lives. Their role could be different, but their aim is one – to save a life.
These workers have a herculean task upon their shoulders. As they have been given the crucial role of saving the next generation by ensuring that children across the length and breadth of India. These health workers are on on a mission to build a healthy India.
For her tireless efforts, Geeta has been featured on the World Health Organizations (WHO) calendar as well.
Many of us are aware of the fact that Himachal Pradesh has a mountainous terrain. She plays an important part in India’s immunisation programme and travels from village to village, going door-to-door to immunise children. She tackles the perilous and steep terrain in her mission to ensure that no child is left behind.
When asked about how long she has been doing this Verma says, “Since the past six years, I have been associated with the central government’s immunisation drive. Our aim (ASHA workers) is to identify infants and children from 0 to 15 years and give them vaccination doses. Vaccination plays an important role in building immunity power in children.”
Speaking about the hurdles that she faces in her daily routine, she said, “As we all know Himachal Pradesh is a mountain terrain. Sometimes, we have to go through thick snow. It’s not easy to reach to the remote villages as they are located in the valley. If the snowfall is heavy, roads are blocked. In that case there is no way out to reach to the villages.”
Varma further explained, “While riding our bikes, the mountainous terrain itself poses a huge hurdle while manoeuvre, certain parts are inaccessible by vehicles and the only possible way we can reach out to the villagers is on foot. We walk miles and miles on a particular day. We have 25 regional medical centres in Himachal. In order to get the vaccination dose, we have to travel 40 kilometres. We reach there to collect the vaccination dose around 4 am in the morning.”
Verma stated that apart from the geographical hurdles she also faces certain difficulties posed by people, she said, “People who travel from one place to another, in search of food and livelihood are still not aware about the importance of immunisation. When we reach to their houses they try and hide their children from us. When we try and explain to them about the importance of immunisation, they sometimes get angry on us, as they are unaware or ignorant about it.”
Apart from immunising children, Geeta has also embarked upon the task of raising awareness about family planning.
Speaking about this initiative Geeta said, “The vaccination programme has received a good response. Since the last four months, we have been working to raise awareness on family planning. People generally tend to prefer a boy over a girl child.”
She added, “The response towards family planning is low. We go from door-to-door to inform women about family planning. Namely, two injections known as ‘Chaya’ and ‘Antra’ which are used for family planning, we ensure that we adequately counsel women who opt for this. Out of 100 women, 20 of them are willing to take these injections.”
Speaking about the prevalence of anaemia in villages in Himachal Pradesh she said, “We have witnessed a rise in anaemia cases among women in the age group of 15 to 49, this happens due to the lack of a nutritious diet. Many children aren’t sent to schools and that is why they develop anaemia. We are working to prevent these cases by tacking the unavailability of nutritious food in these areas.”