NEFAS reaching out to its partner communities in combating the pandemic in Meghalaya

Shillong, May 22: The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has even attacked villages in the far corner of the state. The virus has not even spared the villages which are within the project area of North East Slow Food and Agro-biodiversity Society (NESFAS).

The pandemic situation has compelled NESFAS to go beyond the mandate of the project the NGO is working with the 130 villages in Meghalaya and Nagaland and embark in the work of suppressing the spread of the virus.

NESFAS was shocked that some of the villages where it is working was badly hit by the pandemic and Ribhoi district was found to be hit the hardest in which Pahambir has 2, Mawiong 1, Khweng 73 and one fatality and Liarsluid with 1 positive case.

This was followed by villages like Jongksha and Mawhiang in East Khasi Hills district with 79 and 5 positive cases respectively. This situation compelled NESFAS and its partner organisations to try understanding how prepared the communities are in combating the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this connection NESFAS organised four zoom meetings with the communities which belongs to the four clusters of villages in the project area. In Meghalaya altogether 51 villages joined the zoom meeting which was organised with the sole purpose of empowering communities in their fight against the pandemic.

The first zoom was organised for villages under Sohra and Mawkynrew cluster on May 15, meeting for Mawsynram, West Khasi Hills and Ribhoi cluster was organised on May 17. On May 19, meeting was organised for villages in Jañtia Hills in collaboration with Society for Urban and Rural Empowerment (SURE) and in the East Khasi hills villages with Social Service Committee (SSC) and the last meeting was organised for the villages in Garo hills and Nagaland in partnership with North East Network, Nagaland.

The meeting was organised to share and discuss the strategic plan developed to combat COVID-19 pandemic with the members of the communities. The zoom meeting was joined by the headman of the villages, the Ashas, the Anganwadis, Covid committees of the respective villages, the community facilitators and the staffs of the organisations.

Medical officers from three PHC namely Dr Subharata Das of Jatah PHC, Dr H. Rymbai Laitryngew and Dr Crucybeljune Kharbani of Myriaw PHC also joined in the zoom meeting and help make people aware of the situation and the importance of getting vaccinated.  Other who joined the meetings was H.H.Mohrmen, Nestar Kharmawphlang, Fr Bernard Laloo of SSC, Pasqualina Lamare of SURE, Akole and Vila of NEN Nagaland.

It was learned that many villages did not even have a quarantine centre and in one case this is the reason that the numbers of COVID-19 positive cases increase from one to 72 cases.  The major challenge the community is unable to start quarantine centre is the lack of water supply in the community hall and their unable to feed the inmates.

It was also learned that many of the volunteers engaged by the dorbar shong even in the village where there are positive cases do not even have proper protective gear like face shield, masks, gloves and etc. These are the frontline workers in the village and the unavailability of the necessary gear put them on great risk, said the headman of Khweng village in Ribhoi District.

The immediate impact of the orientation programme was 25 villages have activated the community’s quarantine centres. In order to ensure the safety of the village, 4 villages have immediately placed returnees in the quarantine centres.

The villages which include Umsawwar 4 returnees, Umwangnongbah 1 returnee, Umsawnohlgi 1 returnee, Madanrtaing 2 returnees quarantined the returnees. Nongtraw village took strict action against two persons who returned to the village without informing the Village Council and put them under quarantine.

NESFAS in collaboration with Bhoi CHC was also able to provide special assistance to facilitate the starting of 3 quarantine centres in Khweng and Liarsluid. Necessary requirements of the centres like blanket, mattress, bed, pillow, hand sanitizers, face shields, hand gloves, N95 masks was provided to the community with the generous donation of kong Anita Swer.

The NESFAS was also able to provide 10 portable oxygen cylinders for Jatah PHC 3nos, Swer PHC 3 nos and Bhoirymbong CHC 4 nos and the NGO was also able to networking with Gurudwara, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Shillong for oxygen langar support to the communities if need be.

It was also reported that 13 Positive persons in the project area were fully recovered from COVID-19. The numbers are as follow, Nongwah 1 person, Selbagre 3 persons, Gonol Sangma 5 persons, Madanrtiang 1 person, Liarsluid 1person, Khliehumstem 1 person and Marngar 1 person.

But unfortunately it was found that people are still reluctant in taking the vaccination, it was agreed that there is a need of an intensive vaccination campaign at the village level to convince the people to take the vaccination.

The Mawhiang villages deserve special mention because the community has locally developed a plan to suppress the transmission. This includes isolation of 5 positive persons and their families.

The village council has allotted a special washing place for positive patients and their respective families. Because this is rice sowing season, the dorbar shnong ensure social distancing of people who are engage in farming too.

Families with COVID-19 positive were not allowed to hire labour. The situation is under control now. To suppress transmission villages like Nongwah, Marngar, Madanrtiang have taken a more practical and proactive step.

An inspiring story is also that of kong Ridian Syiem, custodian farmer from Khweng village who after she had developed COVI-19 symptoms, she immediately voluntarily isolated herself from the family.

She had did this even before she was tested and this has prevented the spread of the virus within family. NESFAS is planning to support communities by providing the 360 volunteers in different villages with protective gears.

Apart from the distressing pandemic news, the participatory guarantee group the NGO promoted with the farm on wheel support were able to sell their chemical free vegetables to the nearby villages during the lockdown period. Prominent of these are Mawlum, Mawhiang in the East Khasi hills and Mulum in the West Jañtia hills district.

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