COVID-19 warriors protect urban slums

UNICEF and Andhra Pradesh State Government team up to train self-help groups

Salathiel Nalli and Prosun Sen
Front-line women workers like Lalita are stepping out of the safety of their homes to build awareness and ensure safety of their communities, braving the COVID-19 Pandemic that has gripped the State of Andhra Pradesh.
MEPMA Government of Andhra Pradesh
13 May 2020

It is early morning and Lalita Kumari, head of the local women’s self-help group, is stepping out for a long day of work. Lalita takes care of 4,000 urban slum families and in the time of COVID-19 she is providing additional support such as prevention awareness and counselling.

“The COVID-19 Pandemic and lockdown have created a challenging situation for everyone. Every day we meet people who are running out of essentials or undergoing a lot of psycho-social stress,” recounts Lalita, who visits the families under her area in the mornings and evenings. In the afternoons, she either visits the shelter homes for the homeless or is back in her office taking stock of masks that self-help group women prepare.

Lalita works with Andhra Pradesh State Government Urban Department's scheme Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) in Madanapalli Mandal, Chittoor District.

“My children question me and ask why I need to go out every day when the district is a red zone,” says Lalita.

For Lalita, it is the passion to work with the community, especially women, that has kept her going every day since the Country-wide lockdown was announced at the end of March. 

“It is difficult to walk long distances with no transport available, but at the end of the day, the satisfaction of helping the people and families makes all the difference,” she says with a huge smile on her face.

Self help group members making masks.
MEPMA Government of Andhra Pradesh
Self help group members making masks.

Women’s groups, like Lalita’s, have been actively involved state-wide in spreading awareness among community members on the spread of the pandemic and necessary precautions to be taken. Lalita and 6,500 other women leaders in Andhra Pradesh have been systematically trained through online sessions conducted by MEPMA in partnership with the UNICEF Hyderabad Field Office.

“Thanks to the online training, we are in a much better position to serve and protect the communities effectively,” says Lalita.

UNICEF’s WASH section designed and imparted these trainings to create a holistic understanding of infection prevention and control, key hygiene behaviours to be followed and managing psycho-social stress during the lockdown.

The benefit of the training is reaching a total of 2.3 million urban households across 110 Urban Local Bodies in the state of Andhra Pradesh. 

“Though our district is a red zone, Madanapalli, our urban local body, has not had a single case yet and we will do everything to educate and motivate our communities to keep it that way,” says Lalita, a determined COVID-19 warrior.