June 23, 2021

Navigating through the COVID-19 crisis in India – a talk with our Country Director

In the past year and a half, our team in India has been working tirelessly to still reach and support healthcare workers through the countrywide health crisis caused by COVID-19.

Hear from our India Country Director, Tarun Singh Sodha, how they have navigated through a year of COVID-19 in India:

“The last few months have been very bad in India with up to 3-400,000 new cases every day.

We had a peak in May, and while we are seeing progress, we still have high numbers – around 100,000 new cases per day. The situation is getting better, especially in the bigger cities, but it is spreading in villages and smaller towns now. But we have come out of the major national crisis, and things are slowly getting better.

Vaccinations are moving forward. In the first half of April nobody took the vaccine. Now there is a huge demand, but the supply is not adequate. But things are slowly getting better as more people are getting vaccinated.

For Maternity Foundation – as for everyone else – it affected our work immensely. When India went into a strict nationwide lockdown in March 2020, we had to re-strategize our work for the entire year. We had been moving very fast, we were travelling a lot from state to state to train healthcare workers and engage with partners. Quickly, when the pandemic hit, we identified like-minded partners and worked together to try to use this as an opportunity to reach healthcare workers in new ways through our digital tools, including the Safe Delivery App.

Our main challenge was to keep staff nurses updated on labour-room protocols during the pandemic. It was not possible to do it physically. We did a lot of online trainings, including with our new COVID-19 training material. We expected it to be hard, but everyone was being very responsive. We trained 5,500 staff nurses online in 2020 alone. The Safe Delivery App was a great offset for starting online and remote trainings. It works offline and is very useful at a time where it is very important to stay updated.

Our experience was that it made people appreciate digital tools. It is easy and fast to get the latest COVID-19 info out to the last mile through the App, and we quickly had 20,000 users of our COVID-19 module in the Safe Delivery App alone. It made us move fast – together with partners and with the rest of our global team. We modified the content in the Safe Delivery App, added new content, formed new partnerships, and introduced seven new local languages with UNICEF at the end of 2020 to make sure we could reach more healthcare workers.

All in all, the first wave in 2020 was not very bad – the very strict national lockdown managed to keep the pandemic at a manageable level. We could still do training of healthcare workers online. They had time to prioritize it.

When the second wave hit in March-April 2021, it was a massive crisis. It was not possible to do any training of healthcare workers, it had to be all health care staff on deck, at all times. We were seeing 3-400,000 new cases every day. It was very difficult, and the healthcare workers were under enormous pressure.

2021 has been very hard. It was – and is – a huge crisis. We have been working through all of it, but the situation was hard. People were losing relatives around us. A lot of people would call us and ask for help because we work in health. But we couldn’t do anything.

Now we’re slowly getting back to normal. We are training 20,000 healthcare workers in June alone. A lot of progress was lost, COVID impacted everything, but we are slowly catching up. It was a good experience to see how much we could do remotely. It can’t replace face-to-face – but you can still learn online. We can’t wait to go back to normal, and we are feeling optimistic that things will go upwards from here.”