ARMMAN’s Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 requires urgent responses to an ambiguous and challenging situation. ARMMAN has also adapted quickly to be responsive to stakeholders – our partners, donors, advisors, our team, and most importantly, the mothers and children to whom we owe the responsibility of providing the best care we can in these challenging circumstances. ARMMAN, with expertise in leveraging mobile technology, has successfully adapted its existing interventions and piloted new ones to address gaps in
health information and services created by the necessary social and physical distancing.

New Initiatives Launched for COVID-19

Pan-India Free Virtual OPD for Antenatal and Paediatric Queries

As hospitals across the country focus on COVID-19, regular antenatal and paediatric outpatient departments (OPDs) are either closed or unable to work at full capacity. Reaching the healthcare facility is also a challenge because of restricted mobility and no public transport. ARMMAN has started a pan-India free Virtual OPD (V-OPD) with the help of volunteer doctors. Pregnant women and mothers of children can call a toll-free number (1-800-212-1425) to reach obstetricians and paediatricians from Monday to Saturday (11am – 3pm for antenatal queries and 3pm – 7pm for paediatric queries). Queries can be addressed in Hindi and English. Currently we have the capacity to receive 250 calls a day. ARMMAN is also leveraging partnerships with on-ground NGOs to spread awareness about the Virtual OPD and popularise the toll-free number.

Sending COVID-19 Information to Pregnant Women & Mothers of Children upto 2 years
An emergent gap for lower socio-economic groups is access to reliable information, adapted to the realities of their circumstances and in the local language, especially since getting accurate information online is challenging due to literacy, language and access barriers. For underprivileged pregnant women and children upto the age of two living in urban slums, the current situation is even more critical as these are extremely vulnerable groups, residing in overcrowded spaces with poor sanitation, hygiene and running water. We have leveraged our current mMitra database (comprising of over 3 lakh pregnant women and mothers of children upto the age of two) and existing technology infrastructure to send automated voice calls in the local language, along with SMSs, directly to the mobile phones of the women with curated information on COVID-19 aligned with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and WHO. Weekly calls and SMSs have started and will continue for the next 4.5 months, and updated as needed.

Supporting Ministry of Health And Family Welfare (MoHFW)
ARMMAN is working with the MoHFW to spread more awareness related to COVID-19 among frontline health workers (ASHAs) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs).

Impact on Existing Programs

The COVID-19 situation has impacted our current programs as well, however they remain operational with a few modifications.
Kilkari – Kilkari calls are being sent regularly, with increased listenership in some states. Over the last few weeks there has been a decline in the number of new enrollments received from the National Informatics Centre (NIC), possibly due to the lockdown situation affecting the process of data entry into the RCH (Reproductive Child Health) portal.
Mobile Academy – Frontline health workers (ASHAs) continue to access the IVRS-based refresher training course, with around 200 ASHAs completing the course every week. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is in the process of procuring a new telecom service provider (TSP), which is likely to get delayed in the current context. We are
in touch with the MoHFW and monitoring the situation closely.
mMitra – As the program is technology-driven, phone calls to pregnant women and mothers already enrolled in the program are continuing without any interruption. New registrations from hospitals and communities have been affected. We are attempting remote registrations
by working with our existing partners; however, the numbers are low. We are confident of resuming operations at full capacity as the situation improves.
Arogya Sakhi – Most of the Arogya Sakhis are able to carry out home visits, conduct test and counsel pregnant women and new mothers is their own village, since they already have to visit households to conduct COVID-19 surveys part of their work as government frontline health workers (ASHAs). Since the lack of vehicular access during the lockdown makes it almost impossible for them to attend to their beneficiaries in other villages, they coordinate with ASHAs and Aanganwadi workers in those villages to ensure that the women receive the care they need. In case of emergencies where the woman needs urgent medical attention, the Arogya Sakhis coordinate with the village head (Sarpanch) for a letter of authority that allows
them to hire a vehicle and take the woman to a health facility.
MUW – As the study was being conducted in Mumbai slums and participants have gone back to their villages, the ARMMAN team is reaching out through alternate numbers. The planned midline study is being conducted telephonically. The team has also been able to contribute to
relief work in the area by connecting the most vulnerable families to food ration distribution activity. We will resume operations as the situation improves.

Organizational Measures

Along with ensuring care for our beneficiaries in these challenging times, we are also doing our best to ensure that the ARMMAN team remains safe and operations continue smoothly while adapting to the circumstances.
To that effect, these are the measures that have been implemented.
1) ARMMAN was able to release the salaries for the month of March a few days in advance, and is comfortably placed to disburse the salaries for April on time.
2) We are a team of 101 members based in multiple cities, and we have been able to support the entire team to work remotely from their individual homes.
3) We have had internal discussions and come up with a contingency plan for the current situation. We have reached out to our stakeholders (partners, donors and government) and have revisited vendor contracts.

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