Nizamuddin’s ‘sehat apas’ step up to serve their BastiUpdated: Apr 08, 2020, 17:48 IST
New Delhi: When 50-year-old Mussarat Begum was first asked to be at the forefront of a door-to-door Covid-19 survey in Nizamuddin Basti, she hesitated. A resident of the Basti, she was keenly following the developments surrounding the outbreak and was particularly concerned about its impact on her neighbourhood after more than 2,300 people -- several of whom later tested positive for the Sars-Cov-2 infection -- were evacuated from the Markaz building, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat.
But, on Sunday, Begum, along with more than 30 colleagues who are called “sehat apas” (health sisters) and “sehat sahelis” (health friends) stepped up at the call of the Delhi government and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to conduct the survey in her neighbourhood.
“I had not stepped out since the ‘janta curfew’ was declared on March 22. Naturally, I was scared about the survey, but then I thought when else will I get an opportunity to serve the neighbourhood where I’ve grown up,” said Begum, one among the 50 women volunteers of the community health programme that has been functioning in the area since 2008. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), with the support of Tata Trusts, started it to serve as a link between the local community and public health services.
The two-day survey (April 5 and 6) was a collaboration between the Delhi government, 13 teams of ANMs (auxillary nurse midwife) from SDMC, Delhi Police, CRPF jawans and, the women volunteers from AKTC. The Basti was divided into eight clusters for it -- Nizam Nagar, Dildar Nagar, Khusrau Nagar, Gali Gadarian, Kali Masjid, Qureshi Masjid, Musafir Khana, and Zamin Nagar.
The volunteers, guided by Delhi government doctors, were armed with N-95 masks, surgical gloves, caps, and bottles of sanitizers.
“Local volunteers of Aga Khan Trust were involved so that people do not hesitate and participate positively in the exercise. All areas were covered and a day after the exercise, teams were sent again to verify if anyone is left in areas,” said an official from SDMC who asked not to be named.
Deepak Padhi, a senior programme officer at AKTC, said that the community health team been working to save lives in the Basti for the last 10 years. “The years of training, experience and local knowledge was useful in carrying out the survey, which the group did with a deep sense of responsibility, and sometimes against the wishes of their families.” he said.
Having been involved in the health care programme in the area, these women volunteers have been closely connected with the people who live in area. But the survey turned out to be more challenging than they expected.
“Initially, many of the respondents felt that we are carrying out the National Citizens Register (NCR) survey, so we had to halt mid way,” said Meher-ul-Nisa Khan (36), one of the volunteers. “Consequently we made a lot of effort and reached out to everyone in advance to explain that the only purpose of the survey was to protect us from coronavirus,” she added.
The volunteers ascertained if anyone had developed flu-like symptoms, if they had been in contact with infected people from the Tablighi, or if they knew of other infected people in the neighbourhood.
One family with six members was found to have symptoms of Covid-19, and they have been kept in home isolation with quarantine a sticker placed on the door.
Apart from keeping track of the health of the members in each household, the surveyers handed out masks and sanitisers in each house. They were spoke to the people about the helpline numbers they could call of they experienced Covid-like symptoms.
Delhi government officials said that people from about 95% of the 2,000 houses in the area willing participated in survey, while the remaining either refused to take part, or the houses were found locked.