2020 was a challenge!

COVID 19 challenges

A difficult year for very many - personal loss, health issues, insecurities, economic hardship and much more - didn't matter how or where one lived.

At Kushal we had our fair share. COVID catalyzed us to jump start activities in India and we had busy months between March and September despite strict lockdown. However, COVID struck and several colleagues were affected. Additionally, we had to cope with severe floods and new regulatory requirements by the government for #ngos.

Yet, the resolve, determination and passion shown by our frontline #volunteers for what we care for has been remarkable. Our digital presence continued to grow.

There are many who were beside Kushal through these challenges.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vasavya Mahila Mandali Bollineni Keerthi Jyoti Lahiri Divya Bajpai Peter Beeby Purba Chatterjee Tom Godfrey. A big shout out for Sophie Hurford and Niti Nadarajah who have been critical with their support. Prof Unithan University of Sussex and ST Prasad have been inspirational.

We now look forward to the New Year with the same determination and without dampened spirit.

Wish all a safe, healthy and joyous 2021!

#seasonsgreeting #hopeforthefuture

Training frontline workers on COVID

We have been getting requests for COVID -19 Training for frontline workers nearly everyday. That is not surprising.

Pregnant women in urban slum and rural communities are facing unexpected hardship because of COVID -19. The antenatal support provided through Government of India's Janani Sishu Suraksha Karyakram programme in Andhra Pradesh has come to a standstill as Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) have had to be closed because of the COVID - 19 related lockdown.

The closure has not only meant that services such as routine checkups, educational sessions, peer support and distribution of food has been affected. It has also compounded pregnancy related anxiety. In such circumstances, front line community health workers, that is, ASHA and AWC workers who are from the communities too feel helpless and despondent that they are not able to do more.

Most of these frontline champions have been reassigned to COVID related general awareness raising duties. However, there remains a huge gap in knowledge and information in relation to pregnancy at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We keep getting requests from our frontline colleagues for information and training on pregnancy and COVID - 19. In response, we have developed a one hour training session curriculum which helps community health workers answer questions and give advice on antenatal issues in relation to COVID. The training will equip them to reach out and advice and support pregnant women with wellness and allay anxiety.

To know more about the training curriculum you can view the deck here.

COVID – 19 and pregnancy related anxiety

20 July 2020

Pregnancy related anxiety has shot up because of COVID and needs to be recognised and addressed.

The number of people with COVID – 19 continues to spike in India. The Hindu (www.thehindu.com) reports that the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has been nearly 2000 a day for three days straight. The Health Department has confirmed 408 COVID – 19 related deaths so far in the state. Krishna district where Kushal is present has been hit hardest with a 3.17% death rate. Not surprisingly, COVID - 19 anxiety in pregnancy has sky rocketed in Andhra Pradesh.

Communities in Andhra Pradesh are concerned. In ordinary circumstances, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common complications that occur in pregnancy or in the first 12 months after delivery (The American College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians). And these are unprecedented times.

Our beneficiaries are worried, and there is little recourse to advise and comfort because of strict lockdown being enforced.  Antenatal services have been stripped resulting in limited access to information and education. Kushal India is proactively filling the gap by responding to requests with urgency and using digital technologies to surpass these barriers.

Poorer communities are affected the most. All Anganwadi Centres in the state where women from disadvantaged communities generally access government antenatal services have been shut down. We are supporting the local health department to reach out to 700 pregnant women who are linked to urban health centres on their mobile phones with counselling and befriending sessions.

A difficult question colleagues working in the front line are increasingly facing these days is -

“Amma, if I get infected, can I pass the coronavirus to my unborn baby? Will that lead to my child having problems or deformities in the future? My mother-in-law has suggested that I should terminate my pregnancy.”

Difficulty in accessing reliable information and having to take recourse on attention grabbing headlines in the media has spread misinformation and consequently led to fear and panic in communities. Most of our beneficiaries are first time pregnant and young. To have to be under pressure to resort to termination because of myths and misinformation is unfortunate.

We make sure to advise women –

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation and each day scientists and researchers are learning more on how to prevent and mitigate the impact of the virus. New information comes out nearly each day and at times can contradict previous knowledge. So, it is important to remain updated on information.
  • However, it is crucial that you seek information from reliable and reputable sources, for e.g. WHO, UNICEF and the National Health Mission.
  • If you come across a piece of information in the media and especially social media such as YouTube that makes you curious or worries you, please verify that information from reliable and authentic sources. Do not act on a single source of information.
  • Do not be hasty in taking actions or decisions. Verify your doubts. Consult your doctor first.

To read more about our activities, please click here.

Our family is growing!

We had a very busy start to the week!

56 pregnant women participated in two workshops on COViD-19 awareness and Kushal’s wellbeing programme in Vijaywada on Monday. Leela explained how to stay safe from COVID – 19, and all 56 women downloaded our app. The women also learnt in the workshop what to expect week by week, how their baby-to-be will grow, and received tips on wellbeing. Participants were given confidence to have a conversation with their doctors’ to address questions they had about their pregnancy.

It was an important day, and we proudly welcome Bharadwaj Hospital and Karuna Nursing Home (Hospital) to the Kushal family.

Dr Savitri, Gynecologist at Bharadwaj Nursing Home had to say, “The Kushal concept will be very useful for pregnant women. We will coordinate so that you can attend our OP (outpatient days) to help give knowledge about wellbeing to expecting mothers and help them to access your website and download the Kushal app.”

Dr Radha Madhavi, Gynecologist, Karuna Nursing Home reiterated “I am so impressed with the Kushal initiative. I and my health team will learn from Kushal and even on days the VMM team does not visit we will explain to pregnant women aspects of wellbeing on OP days.”