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Preskila carrying her immunization kit across rough terrain on foot in order to reach the houses she covers. Photo Courtesy: Rachita Malik

How Frontline Health Workers Are Writing India's Immunization Success Story

Contributed by For Child Health (with inputs from Rachita Malik, SBCC Consultant):

Meet Preskila Parmar.

An Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) Preskila works in the Sondwa Block in Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh. Responsible for providing life-saving interventions, she administers vaccines to over 5,000 people in the five villages that she covers.

Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh is a tribal area with poor transportation services and bare road access to a host of regions. Sondwa in particular is extremely remote with many villages like Bhitara accessible only by boat. All under her coverage, Preskila travels two hours by one of the Janani Express boats – which also provide access to 16 such villages – to reach Bhitara.

Picture2.pngPreskila administers an oral vaccine to a child in Madhya Pradesh. Photo Courtesy: Rachita Malik

Once there, Preskila travels on foot around the several housing clusters, each of them several kilometers apart, since there are no roads or other form of transport. With a single-minded determination, Preskila ensures that each child in the village is administered their routine vaccines.

Preskila is one of the many ANMs who selflessly, often with extreme difficulty, provide medical care at the grassroots across the country. ANMs look after the basic health care needs of rural communities, such as immunization, family planning, sanitation, infectious disease prevention/care and antenatal/delivery care. They work alongside a dedicated team of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Angawadi workers as well as village leaders, or sarpanches.

Often, they are the community’s first point of contact regarding all forms of health services. This makes their work crucial because they can sensitize the community about critical medical interventions and bring about real change on the ground.

That’s exactly what Ruma Rakesh did.

Picture3.pngRuma Rakesh (right) with Smt. Kelbai. Photo courtesy: Rachita Malik

Ruma Rakesh is an ANM from the Udaigarh Block in Madhya Pradesh. In 2015, one of the children in the village got a mild fever after a round of vaccination, which made his parents hesitant about vaccination, the next time an immunization drive was conducted. When Ruma went to the mother of the child, Smt. Kelbai, asking her to bring her son to the immunization camp, she refused.

Ruma began to counsel the mother about why vaccination was important for the health of her child. Ruma had an advantage – she could speak the local dialect, which helped her explain that a mild fever can sometimes happen after vaccination and but it is usually not serious and there was nothing to worry about. Finally, Smt. Kelbai understood, and agreed to bring her son to be vaccinated.

Ruma’s perseverance ensured that the child was not denied the right to a healthy childhood and a life.

There are hundreds of stories like Preskila and Ruma’s. Like the ANMs in Bhadrachalam district, Telangana, who bought two-wheelers by availing government subsidies, so that they could reach remote corners of the district to deliver critical vaccines. Or the health workers who walked eight hours a day to ensure that the measles-rubella drive in Arunachal Pradesh achieves 100% coverage.

Frontline health workers are the backbone of India’s public health programme. They are the ones who sensitize, educate, inform the community, and close the last-mile gap between vaccine introduction and delivery – ensuring that every child is immunized and that we are protected together as a community!

Global Citizen India and For Child Health support UN Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives and well being of all people. Take action here with Global Citizen and For Child Health to make sure everyone can get the health services they need no matter who they are, where they live, or what their income.

For Child Health is a platform to promote every child's right to a healthy and happy childhood by increasing awareness about vaccines in India. It is supported by Global Health Strategies, which works on a number of pressing public health issues in India and internationally.