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Emergency relief for India’s COVID-19 second wave

By Opportunity International Australia

We are working to provide support in last-mile health delivery and emergency relief. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has had a horrifying impact and this, sadly, is mirrored by the stories from Opportunity’s implementing and microfinance partners.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are largely social businesses, providing access to capital and livelihoods to a predominantly low-income female client base. Through the COVID-19 crisis, it has become apparent that there is a tremendous and underutilised opportunity to leverage these existing organised communities to provide access to essential health services.

Opportunity’s COVID-19 response strategy for the second wave of COVID-19 in India focuses on supporting vulnerable communities at the last mile – largely urban slums and rural villages – at scale through trusted MFIs and financial-inclusion partners.

Our health programs have expanded beyond the training of Health Leaders in the wake of this second wave of COVID-19; we will support health education, linkages to health services, health financing and protection from medical impoverishment."

We target key populations at risk of COVID-19 as well as households managing mild to moderate COVID-19 cases or symptoms in four intervention areas.

Prevent infection through health education

Community learning health education from a Health LeaderA comic tackling misinformation around COVID-19
Opportunity’s partners like Cashpor are meeting with Indian communities to tackle rampant misinformation about COVID-19 through comics, posters, in-person meetings, voice messages, SMS and Whatsapp.

After a series of mass gatherings in March and April 2021 it became evident that more health education to address rampant misinformation is needed. Opportunity is focused on addressing emerging knowledge gaps, such as: vaccination sensitisation, the various strains of COVID-19, and alignment of COVID-19 care with Ayurveda and traditional medicine practices.

MFIs and local Health Leaders are trusted in the communities they operate in, and so are key in disseminating and amplifying the reach of critical health promotional messages. Messages from local government authorities are shared through a variety of channels, including SMS, WhatsApp, comic books, banners, posters, dindoras (voice messages) and in-person loan repayment meetings where permissible.

Provide care through telemedicine

Communities using Telehealth medicine in India
Opportunity’s partner Cashpor providing remote telemedicine care (via helpline and mobile app)

While the data on COVID-19 cases in India is incomplete, studies published in the Lancet journal suggest that roughly 80 per cent of all COVID-19 cases are of mild to moderate severity.

Opportunity’s focus is to provide remote care and support through telemedicine (phone hotline and mobile app), as well as food rations and medicines as needed, for those with mild symptoms, encouraging them to stay at home.

One of Opportunity’s partners in India has operationalised 84 free telemedicine clinics, with a goal of developing 336 telemedicine clinics which are co-located with branch offices and staffed with Health Leaders. Around 526,000 clients have already enrolled. These clinics are a safe space for women, since all Health Leaders and the majority of telemedicine doctors are female.

Oxygen beds to treat COVID-19 symptoms
Hospital beds and oxygen have been set-up at our MFI branches to treat more critical symptoms of COVID-19.

Building oxygen and care infrastructure at our microfinance branches

To further alleviate the strain of an over-burdened health system at the brink of collapse, Opportunity is supporting microfinance institutions to convert unused rooms in existing branch offices into basic care beds equipped with oxygen infrastructure and care coordination, staffed by Health Leaders.

This intervention provides a care pathway for people with worsening COVID-19 symptoms, as Health Leaders monitor patients’ conditions while trying to secure hospital beds in case of more critical symptoms.

Opportunity’s partner Cashpor is working to procure ambulances so that patients without access to transport during regional lockdowns can be shuttled to hospital.

COVID-19 vaccination camps in India
We’re expediting mass vaccinations alongside our partner Equitas and local and state governments in India in order to improve immunity.

Facilitate mass vaccinations

Finally, as a medium-term intervention in the next six months, Opportunity is supporting MFIs to organise and facilitate co-branded vaccination camps in collaboration with local and state level governments. Our MFI partners are recognised in their communities and will provide logistical support, like setting up the venue, managing registration and crowd-control, so that health workers can focus on vaccine delivery.

Opportunity directly funds community-based, locally led organisations with a track record of trust, which each operate at scale of more than 400,000 households. Our health programs have expanded beyond the training of Health Leaders in the wake of this second wave of COVID-19.

By leveraging the expertise of MFIs, we can offer scalable and sustainable health products and programs to create more resilient health systems and expand health system capacity for both COVID-19 response efforts and on the road to post-COVID-19 recovery.

“Through the COVID-19 crisis, it has become apparent that there is a tremendous and underutilised opportunity to leverage existing MFI communities to provide access to essential health services,” Annie Wang, our Asia Health Director said.

Opportunity works with its partners to distribute food ration kits and medicine to people with mild symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 in India

Donate today so we can continue delivering critical information, food ration kits, medicine and telehealth to remote communities in India devasted by COVID-19.

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