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As Covid fear grips rural Gujarat, NGOs spread out to 1,000 villages, educate people

By Our Representative 
Several Gujarat-based NGOs, including Janvikas, Navsarjan Trust and the Centre for Social Justice, are in the midst of a successful experiment in 1,000 villages of Gujarat, providing health-related education to the rural folk on how to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, even as pointing towards a simmering atmosphere of fear among the people.
In a letter to Gujarat chief secretary Anil Mukim, and to principal secretary, health and family welfare, Jayanti S Ravi, on urgent need to accelerate health education-related activities during pandemic, especially in rural areas, senior activists Gagan Sethi and Martin Macwan, who have organised volunteers in 1,000 villages, said, each volunteer has been provided a kit to be handed over to a village to fight the danger of Covid-19.
Each kit includes a pulse oximeter, a steamer, a digital thermometer, a simple explanatory guide of the disease based on the information released by the World Health Organization and the Government of India on causes of the disease and preventive measures, paracetamol tablets, balloons for breathing exercise, washable hand gloves, a santiser bottle, extra battery cells for pulse-oximeter and digital thermometer, and a four-minute video demonstrating how to use the tools.
The kit
“The cost per kit is Rs 3,000”, the letter says, adding, “As soon as the kit reaches the village, the its demand shoots up in nearby villages.” Stating that volunteers are finding the whole exercise extremely useful, the letter adds, people willingly contribute, “and if we take it up on a large scale, vigorous health education can reach millions of people.”
Stating that the main effort is to “help people take care of themselves and remove unreasonable fear in rural Gujarat”, the letter states, the fear of the pandemic has been caused because of “an unprecedented atmosphere” created by “constant news” about the disease on TV.
Insisting that what is most needed is to “educate people” to reduce fear, the letter says, “The biggest fear among the rural areas is failure to get oxygen. In addition to explaining that not every sick person needs oxygen, it is also important to measure the amount of oxygen so that people become less fearful of the disease.” Hence the need to deliver at least one pulse-oximeter in per village.
Then, the letter says, there is fear due to high death rate, even in small villages. “We are aware that fear itself contributes to the spread of the disease”, the letter asserts, adding, “Hence, it is very important to convey basic information about Covid-19 in simple language to every home.”
Insisting that “it is not enough to advertise that there is a need to to wear mask, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing”, the letter says, “In fact, such a message becomes meaningless after people see on TV screen how rules related to Covid-19 are being openly flouted.”
The letter also points to “fear of death due to vaccination” among the rural folk, pointing out, “This fear is one of the reasons for poor vaccination among villagers.”

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