During the pandemic, with lockdowns wreaking havoc both economically and socially, PHIA (Partnering Hope Into Action) Foundation has been working relentlessly in making sure that vulnerable communities are not further marginalized as an aftermath of the severe lockdowns.
Like several other foundations working at the ground level, PHIA is a partner of the #COVIDActionCollab (CAC). PHIA had a huge role to play in organizing swift and concentrated efforts toward curbing the COVID-19 virus and its ramifications since a new Jharkhand government had come to power. PHIA had already volunteered to work with the Jharkhand administration. They set up a control room and helped migrants from Jharkhand reach home safely. Later, in partnership with CAC, they were connected to a large body of organizations working towards the same goal. “In CAC, we’re directly involved in the implementation and interact with stakeholders daily. Our work is not only focussed on the immediate health impact of COVID-19 but also on livelihood recovery, social security, and other such dimensions. Operations like these require smooth operating machinery, resources, and some hand-holding, which we’ve gratefully received from CAC”, says Johnson Topno.
Working primarily in remote, tribal areas, PHIA weathered a plethora of hurdles – logistical, systemic, and behavioral – to reinforce the resilience of the community. “There’s only 1 doctor for 1 lakh people here, and the area is also dotted by the presence of rebels and other such forces, which hinders mobility”, says Johnson. One of the persons from PHIA remarked that despite awareness campaigns run by the government, people were hesitant to come out and take the vaccine. “We had to conduct a baseline study to assess the situation, and take relevant steps”, says Alexander who is working at PHIA. Deficient in health infrastructure, even samples for COVID testing had to be taken almost 80 KMs away from ground zero. “Not only were logistical issues prevalent, but those from these areas had also been poorly treated in cities. As a result of that treatment, they’d vowed not to listen to us. Health workers had to dodge threats and physical attacks by skeptical villagers”, says Alexander. PHIA took an ingenious approach by integrating the community in removing vaccine hesitancy “There is a stronghold of tribes and religions in these areas, and we thought why not engage community leaders in our efforts”, says Johnson. Community leaders, by virtue of being leaders, set an example for the community to follow.
In that manner, PHIA was sure that their efforts towards vaccination would percolate down to the lowest rung. And it did. Many of the blocks and districts that PHIA has worked in are fully vaccinated now, but the job is far from done. Ground-level workers are actively involved in pressuring the administration toward improving the dismal health infrastructure in these areas.