In May 2021, India became the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, recording over 400,000 daily cases and making headlines around the world as the Delta variant and a wide-reaching health crisis unfolded.
With millions hungry, stranded, sick or unable to isolate safely, the COVID-19 crisis spread from cities to rural areas with a lack of health resources and access to care, leaving some of India’s poorest communities vulnerable and their essential health systems being decimated.
In response to the escalating health crisis, Opportunity International moved quickly to mobilise our existing relationships with microfinance institutions in the community and ease the pressure on India’s existing healthservices and systems by providing relief to those hardest hit by the virus’ second wave of infections.
Our rapid response to vaccinate over five million people in India
With less than 3 per cent of India’s population having received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines as the country saw a record-breaking surge of cases in mid-2021, the challenge of vaccinating such a populous country and targeting rampant misinformation required a locally-led health response.
To expedite mass vaccinations to improve immunity, we collaborated with local governments and our community-based partners to organise and facilitate vaccination camps, given our partners’ trusted presence in communities.
As of May 2022, over 5.2 million people were vaccinated in over 43,000 camps. With vaccination camps reaching an average of 110 people, beneficiaries were often able to travel to them by foot, a key factor in the program’s wide reach, with many referred through our existing networks of local women microentrepreneurs.
The vaccination camp program included:
- Camps across 15 states of India, including remote and tribal regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- 100,000+ people referred successfully for vaccinations
- 739 village-level resilience committees created in remote regions for a localised response and training on COVID-19 resilience.
With misinformation rampant during India’s vaccine roll-out, particularly for vulnerable communities, Opportunity worked closely with our community-based microfinance partners, to deliver education and training – via SMS, WhatsApp, comics, posters, voice messages and in-person meetings (where possible). Through this work, Opportunity reached:
- 10+ million people with education on COVID-19 prevention, transmission and management.
- 3,500 frontline workers with training to support COVID-19 response in their villages, including 1,200 Health Leaders.
- 8,500 people in high-hesitancy communities to address misinformation.
Supporting our clients, their families and communities through last-mile primary care
In addition to mobilising mass vaccinations, targeting misinformation and providing training, Opportunity assisted those in the community who contracted COVID-19 and needed help to manage symptoms and isolate safely:
- Food ration kits, sanitary kits and medicine were distributed to those with mild symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 to help them isolate safely at home, with 34,000+ people received dry ration kits to support safe isolation and 1,200 villages were equipped with essential medicines and supplies (eg. pulse oximeters, paracetamol)
- To manage COVID-19 cases and mental health at home, we provided remote care through telemedicine (via helpline and mobile app) with 4,600+individuals receiving free telemedicine consultations on COVID-19 symptoms at management at home, helping alleviate India’s existing health systems.
- For people with worsening COVID-19 symptoms, we worked with partners to set-up quarantine facilities, free “doctor at your doorstep” vans in high-risk containment zones and provide oxygen concentrators to high-need public hospitals. As a result, 800 people quarantined safely in 82 Community COVID-19 Care Centres, with access to nutrition, sanitation, telemedicine. 24,000+ patients were served through free “doctor at your doorstep” services in Pune through outpatient vans.
Through the COVID-19 crisis, it has become apparent that there is a tremendous and underutilised opportunity to leverage existing microfinance institution communities to provide access to essential health services and ensure lives are saved.” – Scott Walters, Opportunity International Australia.
Roll-out of our COVID-19 response to Indonesia and Nepal
As the situation in India started to improve, in late 2021, these health initiatives were rolled out to Indonesia and Nepal to address urgent needs for vaccinations and oxygen concentrator distribution and help meet the escalating needs.
As Indonesia was hit hard by worsening COVID-19 case numbers in August 2021, we mobilised our microfinance partners across Indonesia delivering:
- Education on prevention, transmission and management of COVID-19 to 1+ million householdswith training modules available in English and Bahasa
- 50 oxygen concentrators to public hospitals with high burden of COVID-19 cases
- Vaccinations to 12,000+ people in under-served West Java, of whom 8 per cent were children/youth with special needs.
With the help of existing community Health Leaders, trained through our health programs, education and training on COVID-19 prevention and misinformation reached communities across Indonesia, including those in regional, areas and with special needs.
In Nepal, 50+ of our microfinance institutions reached 1+ million households with education on COVID-19 prevention, transmission and training available in English and Nepali.
Creating opportunity in the wake of COVID-19
By equipping locally-led COVID-19 prevention efforts, community infrastructure becomes more effective and more trusted –and families living in poverty become more resilient in their recovery of COVID-19.
In addition to small business loans and ongoing health programs equipping Health Leaders at a local level, Opportunity is investing in three key areas to improve access and opportunities for families in need.
This award-winning public-private partnership uses our existing microfinance partners to mobilise people across Asia to be vaccinated, particularly in marginalised and rural communities.
A new initiative, the Social Protection Program helps vulnerable, often illiterate individuals navigate and unlock social support payments available to marginalised groups.
Employment And Skill Development
This new partnership aims to place unemployed and disadvantaged youth in vocational training for in-demand career paths, not only boosting vital areas of the workforce in India and Indonesia, but also providing income and meaningful employment for the next generation to life themselves out of poverty.