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Sydney South NSW 1235, Level 11, 227 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000

Telephone: 1800 812 164

© 2021 Opportunity International AustraliaABN 83 003 805 043

Your impact
through health

Download Health Report

Thanks to your support, 7,132,530 community members are being reached with better health and sanitation knowledge.

Latest Report: October 2020

With limited access to healthcare services, and a lack of basic sanitation knowledge, many preventable illnesses continue to prevail in developing countries.

Thanks to your support, Opportunity's program partners in India and Indonesia, and recently in Bangladesh, are empowering 5,968 women as health leaders. These women, having begun their journey as small loan recipients, elect to participate in basic health, hygiene and nutrition education which they share with community members.

The health leader solution helps families on their journey out of poverty with improved health education and access to better quality healthcare. Health leaders are currently reaching 7,132,530 community members with essential health and sanitation knowledge.

Learn how our health program works

women have been trained as health leaders in Asia
community members are being reached
with better health and sanitation knowledge
women reached with
health education

Data to June 2020

Opportunity’s Health program addresses limited knowledge as the primary obstacle to accessing health care for communities living in poverty. Increasing that knowledge means women and their family members can thrive and pursue meaningful economic and social opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential. Women are empowered as health leaders in their communities to improve awareness of how to prevent common illnesses. Thanks to your support, the health leader solution is helping families avoid illness, including COVID-19. During the pandemic, community health education that focusses on how to look after your family’s health is more important than ever.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Strategic direction

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the Health Program due to lockdown and other restrictions implemented to contain the spread of the virus. India enforced a lockdown from March through to June. In Indonesia a partial lockdown was in place from April to May, with many local communities imposing their own restrictions to protect the local populations. In Bangladesh, the Government mandated a ‘holiday’ from April to June. All of these restrictions meant that the health program activities were slowed or paused during that period. 

Opportunity’s program partners adapted quickly to the restrictions, using digital channels like WhatsApp to share key messages to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep in touch with community members when physical visits were not possible.

In India, a pilot program has begun to establish e-clinics in Opportunity’s program partner’s branch offices. These will increase access to health solutions and affordable health care by providing community members with access to general and specialist health advice through telemedicine. Health leaders will also be employed to facilitate digital access to the doctors, earning an income from this activity which will enhance their economic empowerment.

Strategic Development Goals, SPM, PPR

India Health Impact Report, March 2020

In India, an additional 296 women have been trained as health leaders in their community. This exceeds the initial target to train a total of 4,700 women as health leaders in India to provide health education to local communities to improve awareness of preventable health issues, including COVID-19.

Map of health impact on Indonesia

In Indonesia, health leaders made a video demonstrating how to use a face masks as part of the #AyoPakaiMasker (let's use the face mask) campaign.The video was distributed by health leaders to community members through WhatsApp. The video was shared with all of Opportunity’s program partners in Indonesia to share with both staff and community members.  

Map of health impact on Bangladesh

In addition to expanding the health leader program in Bangladesh, Opportunity’s Health Program partner created a mass-media awareness campaign using billboards, posters and pamphlets to reach 2.2 million people with vital COVID-19 prevention information.

Urmila's story

Health leader and advocate for her community

Urmila is a health leader rooted in the community she serves in Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh in India. Urmila became a health leader to help people in her community become more resilient to preventable diseases, understanding the link between poverty and poor health. She was trained to understand that good nutrition builds immunity to fight disease and she was able to work with 110 families to develop kitchen gardens to supplement their diet with fresh herbs and vegetables.

When COVID-19 pandemic made its way to India, Urmila’s lessons about the importance of good hygiene became even morecritical. Urmila continued to spread awareness of hand washing and sanitation to prevent the spread of infection diseases like COVID-19. She encourages villagers to wear masks but was all too aware that for some people living in poverty the cost of buying masks was prohibitive, so she came up with a solution. She stitched and distributed 200 masks to the poorest families in her village.

As the economic fallout due to the COVID-19 lockdown became apparent, Urmila lobbied the local government village council (Panchayat) on behalf of 250 villagers for their inclusion in the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme which ensures unskilled manual work as a welfare measure. Urmila’s advocacy on behalf of her community shows how confident she has become at her own abilities to use her influence to make a positive difference.

Mobilising health leaders to respond to COVID-19

In India, COVID-19 poses multiple hardships to millions of workers who had migrated from their home villages to urban centres for work. With factories and workplaces shut down with just four hours’ notice due to the nationwide lockdown imposed to restrict the spread of COVID-19, these workers had to deal with loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. With no means of transportation due to the lockdown, hundreds of thousands of workers risked their lives by walking hundreds of kilometres to return to their hometowns and villages in the biggest internal migration since independence. Many migrant workers were branded as carriers of COVID-19 as they made their long journey home. State governments set up thousands of camps to house migrant workers to stop the exodus. Sadly, there were reports of truck drivers taking advantage of desperate travellersby charging exorbitant rates to transport them in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

Opportunity’s health program partner in India responded to the crisis by mobilising 1200 health leaders across 31 districts in six states to take a multi-pronged approach to relief operations. Transport was provided to 2,000 migrant labourers in 36 buses to return them home safely. At the destination districts, health leaders provided medical check-ups for the returnees.

For the migrant workers who made it home, many were barred from entry due to fears that they might bring the virus to their village. Health leaders facilitated the establishment of 103 safe and hygienic quarantine centres in villages’ school buildings for 4078 returned migrant labourers. Returnee migrants were provided with clean bedding, dry rations and meals, and medical checks while they completed a 14-day quarantine period.

Health leaders disseminated accurate COVID-19-related information, including hand washing and social distancing protocols, using voice-based communication platforms that enable voice messages to be accessed by community members using a toll-free number. Callers can also leave questions that can be answered by health leaders. The voice applications are simple to use and accessible to poorly literate or illiterate users. Health leaders received 20,570 calls and 600 high risk cases were identified and referred to formal healthcare.

 Download report as PDF

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the 
Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

view previous reports

March 2020 Report

October 2019 Report

Impact Stories

Your support is empowering these women—and millions more like them—to build a healthier future their families.

"Prevention is better than cure." 
– Jessica Carter, Asia Health Program Director

How important is health? We asked Jessica a few questions about how healthcare is helping families leave poverty behind.


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.


" 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.


The COVID-19 lockdown for 1.3 billion people in India posed a very different situation than lockdown in Australia. Jessica Carter, our Asia Health Program Director—based in Hyderabad, India—explains.


See more of your impact

View all Impact Reports