The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating impacts in India. By April 2021, there were 4,00,000 daily recorded cases. Although the numbers continue to fluctuate, it is very apparent that the urban and rural medical centres are overwhelmed, understaffed and lack basic resources to treat large numbers of people. With variable testing rates compounded by inadequate vaccines, we have to act now to support these rural villages. Rural India is now the epicentre.
For 37 years, the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) has focused on empowering local communities coping with loss from wildlife and having a strong presence in remote and hard to reach villages across the Western Ghats. Our field staff are witnessing first-hand the status of these medical centres where vaccines, although available, aren’t even being availed by the local community. We have decided to act now by focusing on bolstering support to primary health centres (PHCs) in rural India focusing on the Western Ghats.
PHCs established by the government are the focal medical centres in a rural setting. Established under the National Health Mission, with an average cover of 27 villages per PHC. They are the first contact point between rural people and the medical staff. PHCs in Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are facing a shortage of medical supplies and doctors. These PHCs found in and around remote wildlife reserves require last-mile delivery assistance. CWS is committing our trained and dedicated field staff to identify and assist these PHCs directly in rural India. We are equipped to provide support to enable the overworked primary health workers to curtail the rapid spread of Covid-19 and similar zoonotic diseases in these areas. We will help replenish the huge shortage of essential supplies such as face shields, PPE kits, oximeters, thermal scanners, gloves, masks, and medicines to support primary health care centres.
Our three flagship award-winning community-focused conservation programs of CWS are Wild Surakshe, Wild Shaale and Wild Seve. These programs are operational around villages surrounding wildlife reserves of Western Ghats. In September 2020, we launched the Wild Surakshe, a public health and safety program. The program provides knowledge and connections to empower the communities living close to wildlife reserves to cope with zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19 and human-wildlife conflict. Our team has conducted 150 workshops and trained more than 4,000 people, who now understand how to deal with outbreaks of zoonotic diseases in their villages. Wild Surakshe has built strong connections to hundreds of frontline government health workers, forest department staff, grassroots community organisations and leaders to aid communities that are at risk for zoonotic diseases. Unlike their urban counterparts, resilience to zoonotic diseases, access to medical care and awareness about medical protocols are severely limited in rural communities. We need your support to rapidly scale and to support more PHCs in these villages.