Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers are women who belong to the local community or villages and work as community health workers. As a part of the National Rural Health Mission established by the Indian government in 2005, women from local communities were trained to educate, spread awareness about immunization programmes and keep the local primary health centres updated about the various health conditions of villagers. The remuneration she/they receive are sometimes fixed salaries or incentives based on their performance.She/they motivate villagers to vaccinate their children, encourage practices like surgical sterilization, use of contraception, breastfeeding and giving birth in hospitals. She/they are also equipped to provide first aid care and essentials like Oral Rehydration solutions(ORS), birth control pills, condoms, chloroquine, iron-folic acid tablets. During the Covid pandemic, they have acted as frontline workers, worked long hours without receiving adequate financial incentives or personal protective gear. Many have had to arrange for their own transport while making sure that medicines and essential commodities reach the Covid-affected in their communities. It is time we recognize the immense importance of ASHA workers in the rural healthcare system and ensure that they are not overworked and underpaid. It is time we make sure that these working women are provided with proper PPE kits to protect themselves and the support necessary to carry out their work that is saving lives every day.
(In memory of ASHA activist Ranjana Nirula who died of Covid on 12.05.21)