World Health Day 2020: Role of Nurse, Midwives and Paramedical Services during COVID – 19 for SAM Children

Published: April 7, 2020 5:59 PM

There is a need for a more convenient way of making the information reach the grassroot level by circulating videos, modules in local languages regarding care of mothers and children during COVID through the mobile platform.

The world has seen outbreaks, with some worse than others, but one thing is common, all these outbreaks result in loss of life and are a global health & nutrition crisis.

 By Dr Sujeet Ranjan 

World Health Day 2020: Nurses, Midwives and other paramedical health workers are at the front lines of COVID – 19 responses to protect broader community. Today is World Health Day 7th April and has a specific theme is to support Nurses and Midwives. This theme recognises the vital role of nurses and other health workers in the health system.

In the present COVID 19 emergency medical situation, paramedics are playing a great role as a healthcare professional in rural areas also. They are providing advanced levels of care for emergencies and trauma. The majority of our rural paramedics are based in the field and close to the community. They are providing out-of-facility services and some referral services.

The world has seen outbreaks, with some worse than others, but one thing is common, all these outbreaks result in loss of life and are a global health & nutrition crisis. The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has been declared as a pandemic and reiterated by World Health Organisation (WHO).The impact of malnutrition especially among Severely Acute Malnourished (SAM) children in an environment in which health & nutrition services are reduced or destroyed, the caring structures have broken down within society, and trauma is prevalent, increases.

We can understand that the possible impact would be reduced in the number of meals per day and hence the quantity of food per meal as well. Ensuring diet diversity at the time of COVID also remains a challenge as the main goal during this health crisis and lockdown is availability of the basic food first. Therefore, the quality of the diet is also compromised. Thirdly, since the movement of the people is restricted, the availability of supplementary nutrition, immunisation, growth monitoring, health check-up and hence admission at NRC are also some of the challenges. Since the mortality is higher in SAM children aged less than 24 months, these younger children are all the more vulnerable to the direct and indirect outcomes of this widespread pandemic.

The family with access to digital devices such as mobile phones/smartphones are in the state of receiving more aid to protect their children. The health and nutrition paramedics are having a robust record of all the SAM children in their catchment area. During this lockdown situation, the most important thing is to connect with their parents and family members on a regular basis. We are fortunate that –

  • The Communality based Front-Line Workers – ANM, AWW and ASHA are having mobile contacts of those families and are connecting with them for counselling and precautions to be taken during COVID.
  • 104 Remote Health Advisory & Intervention Services – Dial 104 (Free of cost access, 24×7 Services)– National Helpline dedicated for COVID 19. This national helpline is providing all the necessary health information and guidance. Here, the healthcare paramedic staff members are playing a vital role.
  • Under the Poshan Pakhwada (Started from 8th March), the AWWs and ASHAs were trained to mobilize the community in order to provide more quality services and thus generate demand among them.
  • At this time of crisis, the WCD Ministry directed states to provide supplementary nutrition rations at home to children under 6 years and pregnant and lactating women or compensate with food security allowance cash transfers as per NFSA

While there are many ongoing and planned live YouTube sessions for ICDS functionaries for generating awareness on coronavirus that can be tapped, it does have a limit of participants to join. Therefore, there is a need for a more convenient way of making the information reach the grassroot level by circulating videos, modules in local languages regarding care of mothers and children during COVID through the mobile platform. COVID-19 Facilitator guide – Response and Containment measures training toolkit for ANM, ASHA and AWW developed by the POSHAN Abhiyaan, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National Centre for Disease Control and National Rural Health Mission is a useful resource that can be used by frontline workers to disseminate information and generate awareness.

World Health Day is an opportunity to support their commitment, strengthen their knowledge & skills and improve the working conditions to achieve their full potential for a Health Society.

(The author is Executive Director, The Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security. Views expressed are the author’s own.)

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