In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with community-based human rights defenders, social organisations, supporters, hospitals and the local administrations, ActionAid Association has been on the ground and responding. Since the first wave of the pandemic, we have been running sensitisation drives across the country on the need to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. When vaccination started, we ran public awareness campaigns to promote vaccination. To strengthen public health infrastructure, we handed over more than 6,400 oxygen concentrators to health centres and public hospitals during the second wave and supported them with other urgent medical supplies. We also played an instrumental role in setting up COVID Care Centres in the most backward districts and facilitating their preparedness to deal with emergent situations. We also reached out to families worst hit by livelihood and income losses with dry rations, cooked meals and sanitation kits and enabled their access to government entitlements, besides supporting them in rebuilding their livelihoods.
In March 2022, with support from Cisco India, we initiated a year-long programme to enable access to COVID-19 vaccination for marginalised and vulnerable communities in Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts. Covering 181 villages across nine blocks of these districts, our teams aimed to promote vaccine equity by addressing vaccine hesitancy among community members and facilitating their vaccination.
Our community-based volunteers began by identifying non-vaccinated and partially vaccinated persons from vulnerable groups, including Dalit and tribal communities, minorities, persons with disability and elders. Then, through door-to-door campaigns, volunteers spread awareness about the need for vaccination and urged everyone to get their jab. We also disseminated information through awareness drives using vehicles, social media and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material. Implemented through a multi-stakeholder approach, we forged a strong partnership with the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Tamil Nadu, which percolated to Deputy Directors of Health Services in the three intervention districts, Block Medical Officers and Panchayati Raj Institutions. Through village-level vaccination camps and mega vaccination drives organised with local government hospitals and Primary Health Centres, we facilitated more than 1.9 lakh vaccinations against COVID-19.
A culmination event to honour the conclusion of this year-long programme took place at Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission Hall in Chennai on February 28, 2023. The programme occurred in the dignified presence of Justice S. Baskaran, Chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission, and Dr Vinay Kumar, Joint Director (Immunisation), Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Chennai.
Congratulating ActionAid Association and Cisco India, Honourable Justice S. Baskaran said that the efforts to facilitate vaccinations in under-vaccinated pockets and among the most vulnerable populations in the three intervention districts are remarkable. Dr Vinay Kumar appreciated how this initiative has helped reduce vaccine hesitancy among communities. He also applauded the untiring efforts of community-based volunteers over the last year to sensitise communities on the need for COVID-19 vaccination and to enable their vaccination subsequently. Tarun Anthony, Community Relations Manager, Cisco India, expressed his deep gratitude for the volunteers associated with the programme. He spoke about how committed efforts led to 1.9 lakh vaccines being administered among the most marginalised communities. Addressing the gathering, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association, thanked all health workers for their passionate and fearless work, adding that it was through “leadership and partnership that we were able to strengthen community health systems.”