The Entire world is experiencing the panic and chaos of COVID-19 pandemic. Despite facing all the challenges and tough scenarios, India is spreading vibes of humanity, hope and empathy towards fellow citizens all over the world with its unique strength emerged from “Unity in Diversity” showing best results in combating COVID-19. Though separated by social distancing and lockdown, Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) extended handholding support to the poor and vulnerable through collaborative teamwork of over 9000 field personnel, 2.3 million networks of Self Help Group (SHG) women to combat the fight against COVID-19, and by donating around Rs 1 crore to COVID-19 relief funds.
MEPMA has implemented various awareness, relief and preventive measures to not only aid people psychosocially and economically, but also to monitor the health status & wellbeing amid this pandemic. To know in-depth about the efforts taken by MEMPA, Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network interviewed GS Naveen Kumar, IAS, Mission Director, MEPMA. Elets Technomedia is hosting a series of webinars on a daily basis to highlight the efforts of the government, organisations like MEPMA, various industry leaders and individuals who are taking innovative initiatives and effective measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
How is MEPMA carrying out awareness programme propagating correct and accurate information on COVID-19?
MEPMA’s firm belief in “Prevention is Better than Cure” led to the engagement of more than 9,000 field-level personnel in organizing widespread awareness activities at ward levels to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. We are sensitizing people to strictly practice Preventive Guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), and the state’s health department. We motivate people to follow practices such as, frequent hand washing, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and psychosocial care for senior citizens, residents of a shelter for urban homeless amidst lockdown.
Apart from the people of Andhra Pradesh, we also observed the Prime Minister’s initiatives like ‘saluting the frontline warriors’ and ‘light the lamp of unity’ with the residents of Shelter for Urban Homeless and Shelter Management.
Please throw some light on the role of SHGs behind the success of MEPMA’s initiatives in times of COVID-19?
The Government of Andhra Pradesh is taking every necessary step to safeguard the health and lend support to the poor amid the spread of COVID-19. As a part of these relief and control measures, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, YS Jaganmohan Reddy took an initiative to distribute three masks per individual in the state. The CM entrusted the task of stitching these protective masks to the Self Help Group (SHG) women under MEPMA in the urban areas to support the Government’s preventive measures. Also, the project of “masks production” in turn adds to the livelihood of SHGs amid the lockdown. Under MEPMA, as many as 13,000 SHG tailors are working round the clock in 34 production centres established in 100 clusters with a target of producing four lakh protective masks on a daily basis. The project has not only supported the people of the state to protect themselves against the pandemic but also helped SHG women earn an income of Rs 500 or more per day. As many as 21 lakh masks have been distributed as of now.
How is MEPMA supporting and helping frontline corona warriors?
In this crisis, MEPMA supported our frontline warriors in the fight against COVID-19 by supplying Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) sets, protective masks, hand-wash liquids and sanitizers produced by the SHG women across the state. Seventy SHG women members in five municipalities, trained by DM & HO, stitched and supplied nearly 11,992 PPE sets to the front line warriors to fight against COVID-19 in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
Shouldering the social responsibilities amid COVID-19, our SHG women are engaged in stitching masks, making sanitizers and hand-wash liquids to combat the pandemic. Till now, 12,472 SHGs produced 21,40,887 masks, 36,447 litres of sanitizers, 8,912 litres of phenyl and soap oil and 400 litres of lizol and supplied them to frontline workers, in Shelters for Urban Homeless (SUHs) and for private orders at minimal prices. This work is going on endlessly in all MEPMA production centres. These activities, on one hand, helped in ensuring the safety of “frontline warriors” and the public at large, while on the other hand, aided SHG women to earn their livelihood in this time of crisis.
What steps MEPMA is taking to aid the farmers in times of crisis?
The effect of COVID-19 crisis is evident on farmers who are stuck in between transporting and marketing the yield. To extend support to the farmers, the Government of Andhra Pradesh is focusing on delivering fruits like bananas, mangoes etc., to each and every household through MEPMA in the urban areas. This initiative not only saves farmers from the crisis but also helps the SHGs to earn a livelihood and the people to combat COVID-19 by improving their immunity.
These fruits are procured by MEPMA from the agricultural markets as per the indent. The SHGs are taking up the work of selling them at ward level to reach out to people at their doorsteps. As of now, 8,034 resource persons procured 1,700 tonnes of bananas directly from the farmers and sold them at ward level. At present, the Government is focusing to deliver approximately 2 kg mangoes per household per week. Accordingly, MEPMA is in the process of raising the advance indent for mangoes and also figuring out more efficient mechanisms to deliver to reach out every doorstep.
How is MEPMA extending a supporting hand to stranded labourers and urban homeless amidst the lockdown?
Amid the nationwide lockdowns implemented by the Government of India due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MEPMA strengthened its permanent shelter for urban homeless and established new temporary shelters to create a roof over homeless, migrant workers from other states and stranded people across the State of Andhra Pradesh. Apart from the already existing 82 permanent shelters for urban homeless functioning in 53 ULBs, MEPMA established 140 temporary shelters in convergence with district officials creating shelter for approximately 6,725 people and arranged 114 medical camps for the welfare of the residents. With the support of NGOs and other sponsors, the poor in the shelters are being served healthy and hygienic food three times a day along with fruits and health drinks like raagi malt and buttermilk at tea time. MEPMA along with the district officials timely identified the homeless and poor migrants and shifted them to shelters or quarantine after in time performing health tests. On one hand, we are ensuring the safety of the residents by inculcating the practice of frequent hand wash and other hygiene practices by facilitating sanitizers and protective masks made by SHG women. While, on the other hand, we are monitoring the strict implementation of social distancing among the residents even at the times of lunch and at night. To boost mental wellness, MEPMA and Shelter Management ensured practice of yoga/meditation/gentle exercises as a part of the daily routine of the residents.
MEPMA has also collaborated with UNICEF, kindly share how is the collaboration helping the people of Andhra Pradesh to keep themselves safe and sail through this hard time?
To reach out to the grassroots of the community on COVID-19 pandemic, MEPMA in collaboration with UNICEF organized online training sessions for over 9000 field personnel in various districts. These are connected to 2.3 million SHG women with the right information, right action, skills & psychosocial care to eradicate the COVID-19 cases in Andhra Pradesh. These trainings benefitted 80 lakh people in the State not only on good health and well-being but also on inculcating the habit of hygiene practices by WASH techniques. Further, MEPMA also prepared strategies to reach out the unreached on Menstrual Hygiene and Wash Techniques with a vision of promoting personal and menstrual hygiene management.
What is the status of the door-to-door survey of COVID-19 spread in the state? How is MEPMA contributing its bit to it?
In view of escalating cases of COVID-19 infected and suspects in the State, the Government of Andhra Pradesh constituted a team of ward secretary, volunteers, MEPMA resource persons, ANM and Asha workers to conduct a rapid door-to-door survey to verify foreign returnees and to check the health status of the people. Shouldering up social responsibility, MEPMA resource persons and health resource persons actively participated in the rapid survey at the grassroots levels to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
How is MEPMA helping the authorities for home delivering the essential commodities?
Spreading the vibes of humanity and kindness amid the chaos & panic of COVID-19, the members of SHGs and their federations are extending support to the poor and the needy in slums by serving them self-cooked hygienic food. MEPMA facilitated SHG women have set up sale points at ward level to ensure access of vegetables and fruits in the view of lockdown. In Red Zone areas, they are distributing packed vegetables and groceries to the people at their doorsteps. At present, 6,437 SHG members are involved in delivering grocery orders at doorsteps of people in the Red Zone areas and have delivered groceries worth Rs 4.2 crore as of yet.
What is AWESOME?
MEPMA is proposing to establish one of its prestigious projects “AWESOME” (Andhra Women Entrepreneurs through Social Mentoring & Empowerment), an elegant shopping mall in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupathi and on e-commerce platforms with a strategy to double the revenue of SHG Womentreprenuers by filling the gaps with expert solutions in quality enhancement, escalating marketing opportunities and creating branding standardization for SHG products in the next two years. A team consisting of a professor and ten graduates of IIM, Lucknow and IIM Visakhapatnam and industrial experts in supply chain management, marketing, quality control and finance are brainstorming on the project. The main motto of this project is to create direct employment and market for 2,000 plus SHG Women per mall by tapping the untapped market.