After March 2020, it has been a poignant tale of sufferings for humans everywhere due to Covid-19. The survival was possible only with contributions from the good samaritans like Maya Vishwakarma, a former US-based researcher who rose to the occasion to help out the ailing.
Vishwakarma hailing from a remote village Mahra, around 95 km from Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh, is not a stranger to her region as she earned an acronyms PadJiji (pad sister), or ‘padwoman’, in the last few years for her endeavours to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene and efforts to make sanitary pads an affordable commodity in the rural pockets.
Maya, who was earlier working as a researcher on leukaemia at the University of California, has come back to India around six years ago and had established a sanitary pads manufacturing unit at Narsinghpur in 2019. She established a telemedicine centre at her home in a remote village where approachable roads are a dream let alone healthcare services being available.
Last year, Maya had worked extensively for locals and migrant labourers through her NGO Sukarma Foundation during the lockdown helping them with food, milk, footwear, sanitary pads and medicines.
“In the US, healthcare services are approachable so I had decided to work in the healthcare field for my region where the nearest primary health centre is at 15 km and the civil hospital is at 100km and many used to die on way to the hospital. Nearby facilities too are ill-equipped to address local healthcare needs,” Maya said.
This year, she returned to India from the US in January and by March cases of mild symptomatic Covid-19 patients started getting reported in the village. “I turned the telemedicine centre into a ten-bed hospital with oxygen concentrators, basic check-ups and telemedicine for consultation,” said the volunteer activist.
“We used to hold check-ups, offer medicines and sent patients home and called them back the next day for examinations and things like offering steam,” she added, claiming that with regular monitoring, most of them recovered and none had to be put on oxygen though oxygen concentrators are available at the hospital.
“In all four persons, all elderlies, died of Covid-19 in our village during the treatment at hospitals in cities,” said the former researcher who also worked at AIIMS New Delhi in the past.
“We have made locals aware about the safety protocol, taught them about home isolation during cough and fever and regular monitoring of oxygen and fever helped a lot. We would have helped 5,000-6,000 persons from Narsinghpur and nearby districts.”
The volunteers also visit villages to offer consultation and medicines.
Vishwakarma added that recently they have started the help centre at Saikheda, where they used to earlier run a centre for teaching women sewing and computers. They have oxygen concentrators as well which locals can rent out and return later. Saikheda is a block that covers 85 villages.
“Physicians from Jaipur-New Delhi offer consultation to patients through telemedicine which remains free and we only charge for certain medicines so that poor locals aren’t deterred from visiting the centre,” said Maya.
A dozen volunteers, including two nurses, run the centre. The foundation also bears the treatment expenses of the locals who can’t bear the costly expenses of surgeries.
Vishwakarma’s Sukarma Foundation is also helping locals with dry ration and medicines, besides continuing to distribute sanitary pads among rural women. Keeping the affordability factor in mind, the foundation offers a pack of seven pads for Rs 5.
A group of a dozen women produce around 1,000 pads daily with the help of two machines which the foundation had received through a US-based volunteer organisation.