COVID-19 Alumni Story: Shweta Jindal

Shweta Jindal (MSc Public Health for Development, 2018) describes her experience helping vulnerable families through lockdown in India. 

“As an LSHTM alumna, I feel a sense of great pride but at the same time responsibility in being capable of contributing constructively towards COVID-19 relief efforts. I am a medical doctor who specialises in Paediatrics and completed my MSc in Public Health for Development in 2018. Since then, I have been working in public health in India with United Nations organisations like the World Health Organization and UNICEF.”

“Ever since we started reeling under the COVID-19 crisis, a nationwide lockdown was put in force in India – in order to restrict movement of people and hence curb the transmission of infection. While it did have some effects in the early phases, in the form of slower rates of transmission, the brunt of the lockdown was borne as a collateral damage by millions of daily wagers and migrant workers in various industries who lost their employment due to it. Most of these make up the worst hit population by both COVID-19 as well as lockdown measures in response to COVID-19. This is because:
(1) They have multiple barriers to access to health care services, both COVID and non-COVID related.
(2) The inability to benefit from the government-run programmes due to lack of proper paperwork.
(3) Lack of access to proper channels of information and advice on COVID-19.
(4) Financial insecurity worsened by loss of work due to shutting down of all activities.

“When the lockdown was announced by the prime minister of India on 22 March 2020, this was the first thought that crossed my mind, and thankfully I was able to get in touch with an organisation who normally work in menstrual hygiene and education, but had shifted gears to COVID-19 relief work, in Pune and other cities of India. Together, we compiled a list of thousands of such people in Pune (which also happens to be one of the worst affected cities in terms of COVID-19 cases in India). This was done with the help of volunteers who visited these clusters, having been informed about them through a multitude of sources including a helpline number. After identification and line listing of the families living in these areas, our team visited them and helped them with:
(1) Distribution of groceries to help them tide over the period of unemployment and cash crunch.
(2) Health promotion and awareness drives on COVID-19 facts, myths and preventive measures.
(3) Dos and don’ts for suspected COVID-19 cases and helping them with access to the public sector health services.
(4) Providing them with essential primary health care services at their doorstep, since they were restricted in accessing the same.

“I was involved in all four relief measures. I am sharing herewith a few pictures from some of our drives, which have also been shared as posts on social networks. I must add that even though this felt like a small effort in the large scheme of things, the support and encouragement that poured in from all directions once we started doing these things, surely gave me satisfaction in the fact that I had been useful to even some of those who really needed it in these troubled times.”

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