On March 13, 2020, Kamarunisha and her husband Noor Mohammad of Jharkhand's Telo village in Bokaro district, returned home after participating in the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi during the first wave of COVID-19. They were tested for the virus at the airport and advised home quarantine.
The village Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), known as 'Sahiya', Reena Devi, got the couple's information during her routine household survey in the area.
Wasting no time, Reena informed the medical officer-in-charge of the block, counselled the husband-wife duo to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, and followed up regularly regarding their health status and needs. Kamarunisha tested positive for the virus and was immediately quarantined at Bokaro General Hospital.
Reena coordinated for a medical team to be sent to the couple's house the next day and assisted in home quarantine for the other family members. She continued to follow up on their status actively and played a critical role in creating awareness in the family and community to prevent the virus. Timely action and persistent efforts by Reena helped in preventing the spread of infection to others in the area.
According to an official press release, ASHA workers in Jharkhand are popularly known as "Sahiyas". Since the inception of the first wave of COVID-19, they have been supporting the delivery of health care services to the last mile, mainly in remote and tribal terrains.
Jharkhand has nearly 42,000 Sahiyas, supported by 2,260 Sahiya Sathis (ASHA facilitators), 582 block trainers, 24 district community mobilizers, and a State-level community processes resource centre.
Since the government launched the programme, the 'Sahiyas' have been widely appreciated for their commitment and agency in enabling access to health care, even in the areas which are not easily accessible. They have been actively engaged in various activities related to COVID-19, like creating awareness about preventive measures of the virus, including frequent handwashing with soap and water, use of face masks/covers when stepping out in public places, following proper etiquette while sneezing and coughing, etc. They are also involved in contact tracing, line listing, and follow-up of the positive cases.
Jharkhand's ASHAs, or Sahiyas, who have demonstrated their commitment to addressing newborn, maternal, and child health have arisen to the occasion in supporting COVID-19 related activities.
Sahiya Help Desk
In 2011, Jharkhand established help desks in District Hospitals and Community Health Centres (CHC). During this period, Sahiya Help Desks were set up in district hospitals and Community Health Centres in Left Wing Extremist (LWE) district and later scaled up to 24 district hospitals and 188 CHC.
A 'Sahiya' was identified to manage the help desk, given their familiarity with the public health facility and the confidence reposed in them by the community. The key objective in setting up the Sahiya Help Desk was to assist the public in navigating the health facilities, focusing on pregnant women from remote areas, registering patient grievances, and enabling appropriate action. The desk also serves as a point for facilitating Sahiya payments and has a prominent display of the health schemes.
All services rendered by the Help Desk are free of cost. Sahiyas are posted on a rotation basis for a maximum of four days in a month and receive an amount of Rs 150 per day.