The COVID-19 restrictions have highlighted long standing issues regarding access to healthcare in the remote Gudalur Valley. The lack of access has already caused poor health outcomes in the Adivasi communities, and the pandemic threatens to increase illness and death rates. ASHWINI (community-owned health network), along with the community, have endeavoured to overcome these challenges by setting up an in-house government-approved COVID-19 testing facility at the local hospital, and are providing for the medical needs of the communities at the village-level.
While ASHWINI has helped set up an in-house testing centre at the local hospital, they need your support to sustain these efforts. Your support will go a long way to help meet the needs of these communities and ensure access to healthcare throughout the Gudalur valley.
The funds raised will go towards reducing the barriers to the provision of healthcare. These contributions will be directed to address to the following urgent requirements:
- Gloves and sanitiser - Rs. 600 per pack
- Medicine - Rs. 1000
- Food supply for a COVID-19-positive patient or suspected positive patient in isolation - Rs. 1500 for 10 days
- COVID-19 diagnostic tests for the community and hospital staff - Rs. 2500 per test
- Diagnostic tests for other diseases/conditions to identify co- infection - Rs. 4000 per patient
- Referral to higher tier hospital - Rs. 8000 per patient
The Adivasi Community in Gudalur
The Gudalur Valley in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu is home to four Adivasi tribes: the Paniya, Betta kurumba, Mulla kurumba, and the Kattunayakan. Together they have co-existed with the neighbouring Mudumalai Tiger Reserve for decades. Historically, these groups have faced the brunt of discrimination, from being pushed out of their own lands to the inadequate provision of public health and education facilities. It was in the late 1980s that the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS), a people's federation of the four tribes in the valley, was formed to fight for the rights of this community.
ASHWINI (Association for Health Welfare in the Nilgiris)
Under AMS, ASHWINI was established with the aim of building a community-owned health system which would encompass the villages in the Valley. Over the past 30 years, they have managed to reduce the mortality rates associated with a variety of communicable diseases through the successes of this health network and the empowerment of Adivasi healthcare workers. This undertaking covers most of the 320 Adivasi hamlets in the valley. This network, along with the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital set up by ASHWINI, has formed the backbone of the community's overarching goal of ensuring the accessibility of quality health care to all across the valley.
Challenges During the COVID-19 pandemic
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Adivasi community have faced numerous challenges. During the initial lockdown, access to healthcare was completely cut off due to the unavailability of transportation from their remote villages. However, the hospital was able to overcome this hurdle by creating mobile hospitals to provide necessary medicines and address other medical needs. But over the last few months new additional challenges have come up.
The new health protocols call for all patients who require hospital admission and the corresponding clinical staff to undergo COVID-19 testing. The nearest government testing centre is located more than 2 hours away, and the results can take up to 3 to 5 days. This has created a huge barrier for patients who need immediate attention.