Volunteers are bridging gap in lack of COVID-19 awareness in Andhra, Telangana villages

These sessions are aimed not only at spreading awareness on COVID-19 but also to clear the residents’ concerns, like vaccination and when to go to hospitals.
Women stand while distancing to collect ration at a store during nationwide Covid lockdown in a Maharashtra village
Women stand while distancing to collect ration at a store during nationwide Covid lockdown in a Maharashtra village
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Just like rural areas across the country, a high number of residents in villages across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, too, are being diagnosed with COVID-19. To help ease the crisis, voluntary organisation and groups have been coming forward to organise virtual awareness sessions for the residents across rural areas in the two states. These sessions are aimed not only at spreading awareness but also to clear the residents’ doubts and concerns about the infectious disease.

One such group is Palle Srujana, a voluntary organisation. Though Palle Srujana was set up to work to aid and promote creativity at the grassroots level in both states, they took up the initiative of spreading awareness during the second wave of COVID-19, hoping to help people from the rural areas. Around 120 residents from across villages in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana attended the online session, which lasted for more than an hour.

Dr Pradyut Waghray, Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospital, recently addressed a session conducted by Palle Srujana. Speaking to TNM, Dr Pradyut Waghray said, “The spread of COVID-19 is increasing in rural areas. Once our rural areas are infected, then it becomes a big mess. So, we thought why not take an initiative to guide the residents of rural areas.” Andhra Pradesh has a rural population of 70.40%, while Telangana has 61.12%. 

Speaking about the session, Dr Waghray said, “It was an interactive session. I spoke about the precautions that people need to take. I wore a mask and explained the right way to wear and handle masks. I also highlighted when people need to rush to a hospital if they contract the disease and are showing symptoms. I demonstrated some basic exercises and the proning technique.”

A COVID-19 awareness poster featuring Dr Pradyut Waghray

Vaccination and hesitancy was another topic that was stressed upon at the session. “They had a lot of doubts about the doses, the time gap between the doses,” said Dr Waghray. “I never expected the rural population to ask so many questions. It was a one-hour session and I spoke for around 30 minutes, the rest of the time went in answering questions. We had to finally stop the session as we ran out of time,” he added.     

Subhash Chandra, Manager of Palle Srujana, pointed out the city residents have several options, including availing online consultations and book appointments online. "During this pandemic, it was necessary to connect the rural population also to specialists, someone who could speak to them in Telugu. The session was meant for all those from the rural background from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,” explained Subhash.  

Telangana Praja Assembly, another group that has been taking up various initiatives to help people during the pandemic, also conducted a similar session recently. Rythu Swarajya Vedika, a group working closely with farmers, is one of the core groups of the Telangana Praja Assembly.

Poster for an expert discussion organised by Praja Assembly of COVID-19 issues and vaccine hesitancy in rural areas 

Speaking to TNM, Sreeharsha, a state committee member of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, said, “The first session, which had social activists and renowned personalities, focused on governance with respect to the current issues in rural and urban areas. This also included COVID-19 management and the government’s response to the pandemic,” he said. 

According to Sreeharsha, these sessions are also streamed live on Facebook and hence it helps in reaching out to a wider audience. Telangana Praja Assembly’s next session on May 15 is titled, ‘Grameena Prantha Corona Samsyalu, Vaccine Bhayalu’, which broadly translates to ‘Rural COVID-19 issues and vaccine hesitancy. The session is about the current issues being faced because of the pandemic. It will have several popular doctors on the panel, who will help address the issues faced by people from rural background.

“There is still a lot of stigmas associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in villages. Even if one member in the family dies due to COVID-19, the other members refuse to get tested. There are a lot of deaths happening from across both states. Sessions like these will help spread awareness among the people. We are coordinating between multiple groups in order to bring about a collaboration to help people in need of help," added Harsha.


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