As an soldier fights to protect his motherland from an enemy on the border, as a policemen who safeguards the citizens from criminals, as a fire brigade personnel who risks his life to save someone else, our health workers also play a similar role in their battles with the deadly diseases to ensure that the next generation lives a healthy life.
They all go beyond their duty, when it comes to saving precious lives. Their role could be different, but their aim is one – to save a life.
A health worker is nothing less than a soldier on duty, as their duty is to ensure that every child and the pregnant woman get immunisation. A health worker is always on a mission to build a healthy India.
And in India, Asha workers have been the true health ambassadors, who have been entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that no child is left out from getting immunised.
They travel in some of the remotest interior tribal villages of Maharashtra, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and make their way through mountains and valleys covered with thick snow from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
Meet Geeta Varma, a Asha worker from Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. Geeta represents the face of thousands of Asha workers who are sacrifice their personal life to build a healthy India. For her herculean efforts, Geeta has been featured on WHO’s calendar as well.
The last week of April is marked as World Immunisation Week. Geeta too was busy, going through some of the risky areas of Himachal Pradesh. My Medical Mantra spoke to Geeta on various aspects of a life of Asha worker.
My Medical Mantra: Since when have you been the part of vaccination drive?
Geeta Varma: Since the past six years, I have been associated with the central government’s immunisation drive. Our aim 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. As per their age we give them polio, BCG, polio booster, hepatitis and measles vaccination.
Can you brief us about last year’s vaccination drive?
Last year, in August, 2017, we have had a vaccination drive. For this, the part which was identified was through remote areas. We had to make our way through the valley. In the 15 days, vaccination camp we had identified 48 children from 9 to 15 years of age. In a medical centre, 15 to 20 kids are vaccinated per day, but during the medical camps around 300 kids are given immunisation dose.
How do you work?
We do both indoor and outdoor work. In the afternoon we are on field. We walk miles and miles, travel to remote villages and find out the children so that we can give the vaccination dose. With the children, expectant mothers are also immunised time and again. While we spend our time in the village, we counsel the family members and explain them the importance of vaccination for their children. With this we try and find out the TB patients as well. My dream is to provide vaccination dose to every child in my state, so that no child is left without unimmunised.
What kind of hurdles you face in your daily routine?
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. 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.
How was your experience during the vaccination drive?
Those who stay in more developed towns compared to smaller towns, have the facility of getting their children vaccinated at the private or government clinics. But those 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 hid 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. Malnutrition and TB are the biggest worrisome factors amongst these communities.