Data to December 2021
Even before the pandemic, low-income communities, in particular those in rural and remote areas, faced immense challenges to accessing quality, affordable healthcare. The pandemic deepened these existing inequalities.
For the majority of 2021, our health program was focused on supporting communities to prevent, treat and vaccinate against the continuing COVID-19 outbreak in India.
In the second half of 2021, as the COVID-19 epicentre in Asia shifted from India to Nepal and Indonesia, we focused our health response to these countries, leveraging our trusted network of microfinance partners to respond to the urgent health needs of low-income communities.
The Health Leaders program empowers female small loan recipients to deliver basic health education in their communities, with a focus on illness prevention and health promotion. This program operates in India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Our Health Entrepreneurs initiative supports digitally-enabled community health workers to develop sustainable livelihoods by delivering essential health products and services, operating in India and Bangladesh.
Suman Devi’s story
Suman Devi, a married mother of four, has been working as a Health Leader in her community since 2014. She has provided basic healthcare services to sick patients such as blood pressure (BP) checking, temperature monitoring and arranging referral services for severely ill patients.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she provided help and support to community members who were ill or needed health-related information. She showed perseverance and courage to stand in the gap when local frontline healthcare wasn’t available. Suman was called upon at all hours to assist patients with her BP machine, oximeter, thermometer and medicine.
Suman received training from Opportunity’s program partner on COVID-19 prevention and care, and learned about how to treat patients with low oxygen levels. She has used her knowledge and training to help save lives, which has given her great satisfaction. She enjoys her work and feels encouraged and inspired to do more for people in her community.
I wish my little daughter could also do such work. She keeps saying that she too wants to work in an NGO and work for the betterment of the society.” - Suman.
Realising the Opportunity
In September, our first local impact evaluation was produced, measuring the change in knowledge, attitudes and practices based on the 25 modules of health education delivered by the Health Leaders. The results were impressive, with the greatest improvement in topics involving women’s health - Menstrual and Reproductive Health (50 per cent improvement) and Maternal Health (38 per cent improvement). This program also benefits women with the lowest education levels and those who are illiterate the most, decreasing the knowledge gap attributed to differences in education levels.
Opportunity, through our partners, supported mass vaccination hubs, ‘doctor at your doorstep’ mobile medical vans, education, training, telemedicine and food ration kits for safe isolation at home, benefitting more than 15 million people in 2021. By the end of December 2021, Opportunity had provided 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations across more than 27,000 vaccination camps and due to the ongoing need, we are continuing this program in 2022.
Indonesia and Nepal
In Indonesia and Nepal, we directed our efforts to localising COVID-19 education materials and providing online training on the COVID-19 awareness and prevention materials. This was done through more than 55 microfinance institutions, reaching over 2 million people. Our COVID-19 community education modules have been translated and are available in 10 languages. In addition, our partner in Indonesia provided 50 oxygen concentrators to public hospitals with a high COVID-19 burden and ran a vaccination campaign to target children and youth with special needs in underserved West Java.
Opportunity International Australia’s Health program is being enhanced with three flagship initiatives – Health Leaders, Health Entrepreneurs and Health Finance – to better serve the health needs of low-income families. These three initiatives work in tandem to improve access to last mile primary healthcare, supporting the communities we serve to develop the ability to seek, reach, pay for and engage actively in their health and wellbeing.
Our goal is to improve the overall health of families and communities living in poverty by providing education and access to much-needed services. In 2022, we will continue to support existing Health Leaders to educate their communities.
We will train and equip an additional 1,000 Health Leaders to reach new communities, whilst integrating COVID-19 resilience strategies into the Health Leader training curriculum in Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.
We will support existing Health Entrepreneurs in India to provide essential health products and services and train an additional 300 Health Entrepreneurs to support their communities while earning a supplementary income.
Our health program will continue to grow in reach and depth of impact as we prioritise primary healthcare access in rural and remote areas, including the provision of diagnostic tools and chronic disease medications. We will continue to leverage Opportunity’s industry-leading microfinance networks to increase uptake of health savings and health insurance options, improving the resilience of the families we serve through Opportunity’s new Health Finance program, starting in 2022 in India.
This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Your support is empowering these women—and millions more like them—to build a healthier future their families.
Helping COVID-19 patients breathe easier in Indonesia
In August 2021, Indonesia overtook India as the COVID-19 epicentre of Asia as the Delta variant spread and the country’s public health system became overwhelmed.
How our partners have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic
Opportunity’s microfinance partners have introduced new initiatives in response to coronavirus and to support families living in poverty during this time.
"...as we started meeting regularly, it became like a family."
– Usha Devi, Uttar Pradesh
Usha is a BCP—a Basic Care Provider—not quite a paramedic or nurse, but more than a first aid responder. BCPs provide an essential health service to people living in rural India.
'One disease away from losing everything'
Whether through lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, school closures and more— we've all experienced the vulnerability that emerges with a health pandemic. However, for millions of people across the world, health-related vulnerabilities are a daily reality.