On the 73rd day of the lockdown, India ranks no. 7 in the worst hit countries of the world, behind the U.S., Brazil, Russia, the UK, Spain and Italy. As part of their planning for the reopening of India’s economy, the Government of India has emphasised the need for the adherence of the public to personal hygiene, thermal screening, masking and social distancing.
Empowering our citizens with the right information to ensure that they take the necessary precautions is essential to containing the spread of COVID-19. People of all ages are susceptible to the corona virus, particularly those who have pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Building up our immunity and following the Government advisories issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs is crucial at this time.
The Koraga community of Koteshwar are a tribal people, who are mainly basket weavers, daily wage labourers and cleaning workers in the Panchayat. Most of them live on agricultural land and make a living selling baskets made out of bamboo and cane. Their contribution to the culture of Karnataka is their skill in dollu or drum beating, flute playing and tribal dances.
There are 23 families who live in Kumbhasi and Roshnidhama, all of whom are in severe economic distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 2020, we provided ration kits to these families as they were unable to earn any income due to the lockdown and were in urgent need of food supplies. These families live in close proximity to each other and therefore, need to be aware of the safety precautions to be observed within the community.
On the requests of Ganesh,leader of the Koraga community and SaraswathiPuthran, President of GopadiPanchayat, we decided to organise an awareness session for these families. This was held on 5th June 2020, at 9:00 am, at the community hall at Roshnidhama. Venkatesh, Nagaraj and Dinesh arranged all the chairs keeping social distancing in mind. Shalini registered all the participants, while Geetha sanitised all the 30 attendees and did a thermal check of their temperatures.
First, Venkatesh took them through ‘An introduction to COVID 19’. Next he explained about ‘Prevention and Safe practices’ to be followed in the community and lastly, he gave them suggestions on ‘How to manage Stigma and Discrimination’ within the community. Nagaraj demonstrated the correct hand-washing steps, to make it easy for the participants to wash their hands effectively.
Once the presentationsand demo were done, Safety and Hygiene Kits consisting of a sanitiser, 5 Dettol soaps, 8 handkerchiefs and a nail cutter were distributed to each of the participants.
We also distributed posters on awareness and safety measures with a request put up the posters in their homes and also in public places within the community. This will help to spread awareness to as many people as possible.
Both Mrs Saraswathi Puthran and Ganesh expressed their appreciation of the session. They acknowledged that the Safety and Hygiene kit is very useful to the Koragas. They found the handkerchiefs especially useful for the women. At present, they use their shawls to cover their faces instead of masking. All the participants expressed their happiness at being a part of this activity.