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A Gandhian Organisation In Odisha Is Serving Adivasi Regions Stranded During The Lockdown

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of #EveryOneCounts, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Save the Children, to spark conversations around how in the fight against the coronavirus, everyone counts, and every voice, every action can make a difference. Join the campaign and publish your story here.

A rural-based Gandhian organization in Odisha has come forward to serve the helpless and needy in tribal inhabited regions, amid the restrictions of coronavirus lockdown.

The Coronavirus pandemic is greatly affecting the livelihood of indigent communities in tribal belts of Odisha. With no daily wage jobs and halted trade across the state, many people have lost their full-time source of income and are on the verge of poverty and hunger. Upon the misery, the hazardous risk of corona contamination is simply worsening the condition of poor communities in the rural.

Antyodaya Chetana Mandal, a non-profit organization in Mayurbhanj, Odisha understands the gravity of coronavirus in their working regions and is accordingly doing its bit in helping the vulnerable groups to collectively fight the battle against an invisible enemy.

Service to mankind is service to Nation

Since its inception in 1982, ACM has been working passionately for the socio-economic development and disaster mitigation of downtrodden and indigent communities in the extreme rural of  Odisha. Over three decades, the organization has developed and implemented sustainable projects like Agro-based developments, Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Integrated Education (IE), Vision2020, Mobile Health Unit, Community Eye  Healthcare in North Odisha, Capacitating rural artisans and many more, for the benefit of poorest of the poor in remote areas of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, and Kandhamal districts.

“Serving to Indigent Communities has been always our priority. With our programmes, we help tribals, dalits, women, landless , physically challenged persons and other unprivileged groups, to lead a peaceful and prosperous life with equal rights & respect, same as other human beings on the planet”.  – Aditya Pattnaik,  Founder of Antyodaya Chetana Mandal with multi various experiences at the local and global level.

Ongoing Social Activities For Indigent Communities During COVID-19 Crisis

There is no doubt Coronavirus pandemic has strongly disrupted the normalcy of our society. Each and everyone is affected in a way or more.

But even in such a fright, Antyodaya Chetana Mandal is setting examples for Humanity and Compassion by standing strong with the people at large through awareness, serving dry food, reaching the unreached with health facilities, attending emergency eye patients and advocating both at the state and national level. You can term their role as GO-NGO collaboration or Model Quarantine.

Let’s go into a bit detail and understand how the organization is serving vulnerable and needy ones in different tribal belts of Odisha.

Raising Awareness About Hygiene And Sanitation In Regional Languages

Though Odia is the first language spoken in Odisha, in tribal regions, linguistic preferences are primarily regional. Talking about Mayurbhanj district, a majority of Adivasis speak Santhali, Ho, and Bathudi, which are very different from the common Odia language.

Thus, to avoid any kind of misinterpretation, ACM is recording informational messages about COVID-19 in regional languages and spreading the word with the help of a loud mike, loaded on a van. Apart from mike announcement, organization is hosting public meetings with the help of local Asha and Anganwadi workers and educating every one in the village about using masks & social distancing procedures.

Awareness through mic
Awareness through mike
Awareness through public meetings
Awareness through public meetings

On a serious note, Mr. Aditya Pattnaik justified the importance of more & more awareness programmes in the rural areas, as some people in their region think Coronavirus is caused due to Bahabonga, (a tribal festival of spring and harmony) while many have no idea about the critical consequences of corona attack.

Mobile Health Facility for unreachable communities

In Odisha, there are a few interior villages where the reach of communication and health services is a bit weak. To help poor families living in those extreme rural areas, ACM is operating its own Mobile Health Unit. A team of experienced doctors and nurses is always on the move in and out of Kandhamal district.

Mobile Health Unit in Kandhmal
Mobile Health Unit in Kandhmal

They visit different villages on their mobile ambulance vehicle and check the overall medical conditions of family members from door-to-door. In this time of Corona crisis, if anyone shows the symptoms of COVID-19, the team immediately reports it to District Medical Officer for further investigation.

ACM Team raising Corona awareness
ACM Team raising Corona awareness

Not limited to check-up and diagnosis, ACM’s Mobile Health Unit also raises awareness about Hygiene & Sanitation through practical actions. Even the team has started an oath-taking campaign, which is motivating tribal residents to follow social distancing rules strictly.

Emergency Eye Care Treatment at MGEHRI Base Hospital

Since 2000, Mahatma Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Institute (www.mgehri.org), an epitomized unit of ACM, has been offering comprehensive eye care treatment & services to communities living in and around Mayurbhanj, Balasore, and Keonjhar. Situated in a serene environment at Rangamatia, Rasgovindpur block, Mayurbhanj, the eye hospital is popularly known for providing free cataract surgery to vulnerable groups.

Yes, you read it right!

Through outreach screening campaigns, ACM brings in cataract affected patients to its base hospital and performs their surgery with the help of renowned ophthalmologists, at zero cost – completely free.

Eye care treatment at MGEHRI
Eye care treatment at MGEHRI

Presently, the outreach campaigns are on a halt due to state-wide lockdown restrictions; however, the base hospital is still open for public, every day except Sunday. People from near-by rural villages who face difficulties with their vision, often rush to MGEHRI for immediate check-up and treatment.

Following the preventive guidelines set by WHO, doctors and nurses are using masks as well as clinical gloves and ensuring a safe and hygienic atmosphere for all. Also, unnecessary gathering of patients is not allowed inside the hospital and anyone who visits the campus is asked to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Patients following social distancing
Patients following social distancing

Quarantine Center For 50 Beds At Gandhi Gurukul

ACM Rashgovindpur centre (Gandhi Gurukul), a modern daycare school for children, is being used as an official quarantine center for Rasgovindpur block under the jurisdiction of state government. This comes after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced to setup proper quarantine centers in every block of every district throughout Odisha.

Inspection by BDO, Sub-Collector, and Tahasildar
Inspection by BDO, Sub-Collector, and Tahasildar

We are open to help our government in any way possible. For the time being, we have opened the doors of our school. – Geetanjali Pattnaik,  Director of  Gandhi Gurukul.

Distribution of Masks and Dry Food Packets

Considering the hardships of homeless people, labourers, physically challenged personnel, and other vulnerable groups amid the lockdown, ACM is distributing small packets of groceries, sanitizers, and masks to all the needy ones in their working zones.

Dry food packets are personally packed and sealed by the associates  of ACM with care  and cleanliness. Mainly, groceries such as potato, onions, salt, dal, chuda, biscuits, chocolates for children, match sticks, Dettol soaps, masks, etc. are included in the package.

Distribution of essentials to Indigent people
Distribution of essentials to Indigent people

And every time there is a public meet-up to raise the awareness on COVID-19, the founder and associates personally distribute the packets to people who are in distress. Till now, ACM has served minimum grocery to over 4000 rural families on a personal capacity.

It feels good to see that Antyodaya Chetana Mandal is always there for indigent communities no matter what’s the situation. I hope, this inspires other voluntary organisations working in rural areas to work collectively and help needy communities to fight the battle against corona.

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