World Health Organization (WHO) has honoured 1 million Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers of India for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system and ensuring that those living in rural poverty can easily access the health care system, as seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have been awarded the Global Health Leaders Award 2022 on the occasion of the 75th World Health Assembly on May 22. They are one of the six award recipients. WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the award and paid recognition to the outstanding contribution of ASHA Workers as they played a vital role in advancing global health and committing to regional health issues.
ASHA Workers are female health volunteers of India who work under the National Health Mission. They have several responsibilities, including promoting immunisation and institutional childbirths, monitoring malnourished children, and raising awareness of family planning.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, ASHA Workers as the first point of contact for the rural health care system played a key role in the vaccination programme. Jyoti Shubhashadhar, an ASHA worker from the Akola district of Maharashtra says, “We worked in the vaccine camps set up by the authority, nasal swab-testing and taking care of the quarantined patients were our major duties.”
“ASHA means ‘hope’ in Hindi. These health workers provide maternal care, immunisation for children against vaccine-preventable diseases, community health care, treatment of tuberculosis and promote necessary health care measures such as nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living”, WHO stated.
On May 23, Prime Minister Modi congratulated the whole team of ASHA workers, he tweeted, “ASHA workers are at the forefront of ensuring a healthy India. Their dedication and determination are admirable”.
In recent years, ASHA workers across India have held protests related to a range of demands such as better pay, pensions and status as government employees. Currently, they receive an honorarium monthly for their work which is also not given on time. Rajni, an ASHA worker from Barshitakli Taluka says, “Women from my Taluka have not been paid for our Covid programme work. 200 rupees monthly was announced for the extra work we did.” Rajni says that she was last paid in February of this year. “With 3700 rupees it is very tough to run my house, and the lives of my children”, she said.
Photo source: Jagran Josh
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