Gender-responsive measures in our public health system need strengthening, finds a multi-state quarantine centre survey
Date : 22-October-2020
New Delhi, October 22 | As the COVID-19 pandemic reached India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, just like other countries, mandated the setting up of quarantine centres, as spaces where the sick, exposed and potentially infectious people are isolated from the larger population. Quarantining was a necessary step towards preventing further spread of the infection and better management of the disease. To ascertain the status of quarantine-related infrastructure and services, especially with respect to the security and protection of women and children, ActionAid Association carried out a rapid assessment covering 765 quarantine centres across 14 states of India – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The respondents were diverse, including those who were either present in quarantine or had been there earlier; those involved in managing and providing services at these centres; and those involved in their monitoring.
The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, suggest the rooms or dormitory be separated and may be preferable with in-house capacity of 5-10 beds and each bed separated 1-2 meters apart from all sides. As per the findings of this ActionAid Association survey, nearly 87 per cent facilities housed 2-8 persons per room, with 86 per cent respondents sharing that the distance between two beds was one meter or more. Besides, 78 per cent centres reported enough bedding available per person and in 89 per cent, there was facility for safe drinking water.
The MHA guidelines further state that during the quarantine period, people should be monitored at least once every day for fever and respiratory symptoms. This survey however found that in 18 per cent of the centres, there were no visits made by doctors or nurses at all. While in 24 per cent of them, the visits by medical professionals happened twice a week, in 21 per cent, it took place just once a week. Healthy, nutritious meals are another pre-requisite for strengthening body’s immunity to fight the infection. Among the quarantine facilities surveyed by ActionAid Association, while 56 per cent were giving two meals a day, there were at least 7 per cent centres where no meals were provided at all. And only 26 per cent centres reported having baby food available for children under three.
Furthermore, it was found that 31 per cent of these centres were not satisfactorily clean and 15 per cent respondents mentioned that the quarantine facilities did not have proper soap and hand wash available. On the specific needs of women and children, it was found that 22 per cent of the centres did not have any separate rooms for women and children while 14 per cent did not have any separate toilets for women. 50 per cent of the women who used the facility said there were no special provisions for pregnant and lactating women, and an equal number of centres surveyed were found to be lacking provisions such as sanitary napkins.
On the occasion of release of this report, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid Association, said, “Our multi-state rapid assessment covering more than 700 quarantine centres outlines the exemplary task attended to by the Union and State governments and local administrations over a very short period of time. These findings have also brought to the fore the various challenges of running these facilities, including the need for gender-responsive and child-friendly measures at these centres.” The complete report brought out by ActionAid Association, ‘Rapid Assessment of Quarantine Centres in India: A Report’ can be accessed here. “We hope that the findings emerging from this survey would help the concerned authorities strengthen the quarantine infrastructure and services, and build a comprehensive, gender-responsive and child-friendly policy framework for our public health system at large,” Sandeep further added.
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