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Crossing a river to vaccinate Paterwa residents

The Alternative Vaccine Delivery vehicle provided under RECOVER Bihar
with the ANM and the PCI team crossing the Gandak River to get to Paterwa.

It has been 5 months into the project and through RECOVER Bihar we continue to reach extremely hard to reach areas and make vaccination accessible to all. West Champaran’s Bairiya Block is a home to a few hard-to-reach villages. Out of them, Paterwa has been particularly challenging for Project Concern International’s (PCI) implementation team.

Situated almost 22 kilometers from the PHC Bairiya, one has to cross the Gandak river and a coarse sandy patch stretching up to 8 kilometers to get to Paterwa. With a population of 600, Paterwa is home to the Yadav, Koiri and Muslim communities. The main occupation of the village is farming and seasonal migration to seek work during the monsoons. Therefore, tracking the migrants and daily wage workers who step out for work is a major challenge.

There is limited penetration of immunization services with the last Routine and COVID Immunization session held six months ago in 2021 due to the difficulty in reaching the area. Poor access to the healthcare system makes it more back breaking for the villager residents to avail pre-vaccination counseling and post vaccination care.

Besides the arduous route to Paterwa, there were other problems that the team tackled. As the PCI team began putting together a local team to work at village level, the low literacy and lack of awareness around the pandemic, the recruitment of Village Mobilization Coordinator (VMC) initially posed challenges. However, the consistent efforts of the Block Coordinator and the verifier yielded results and a young and motivated male VMC was recruited from the village.

After attending the Bairiya block level training for PCI VMCs and verifiers organized by the Block and District Coordinator, the Paterwa team began the line listing process. Line listing helped the team identify special groups such as Pregnant and Lactating Women, Chronically Ill, Elderly, Disabled And Migrant Populations. However, this wasn’t an easy process. While the VMC is from the same village, the verifier in this case belonged to another village and was responsible for two RECOVER Bihar villages.

Due to the long commute to the village and tracking issues with daily and farm laborers out for work during the day, the verifier had to stay back in Paterwa for 3 days to finish his work later in the evening when everyone was back home. With this commitment, the verifier and VMC finished the line listing process in a span of 3-4 days.

A due list was created with all the 15+ beneficiaries due to be vaccinated. 310 people from the 18+ age group and 31 from the 15+ age group were due for either first or second dose. Once the due list was prepared, the team adopted targeted counseling approaches for using the strategic guide tool specifically created for VMCs. The team addressed the concerns of the village residents and cleared their doubts around vaccine safety. Next step was to find a suitable location to set up the vaccination camp.

As houses in Paterwa are spread in different directions, choosing an accessible and central vaccination site was crucial. Therefore, the team selected the Panchayat Bhavan as it had space to create a waiting area as well. When the team went to get the respective permission, the guardian of the house was not at home, but the family members gave the permission. The campsite was set up for 1st of April, and so the team distributed the mobilization token a day before the camp as a reminder and to prepare due list beneficiaries. However, they received a call from the guardian who had returned from the city and threatened the team not to use the Panchayat Bhavan for any vaccination work. The team was quite worried and immediately approached the Mukhiya of the village, who intervened and resolved the matter. Finally, our team had the Panchayat Bhavan, a favorable vaccination session site in the village.

The Alternative Vaccine Delivery vehicle picking up the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), verifier and vaccination from the Primary Health Center of Bairiya block in West Champaran.

With the support of the PHC, the team was assigned an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) to administer the COVID vaccines for 15-18 and 18+ age groups. On the day of the vaccination, the PCI team arranged for an Alternative Vaccine Delivery (AVD) vehicle to pick up the ANM, verifier and vaccine from the PHC. The entire team including Block and District Coordinators were present to make sure the vaccination session goes smoothly. The decorated session site offered a welcoming ambience as beneficiaries, young and old, walked in with their mobilization tokens and AADHAR cards

For some beneficiaries who had been waiting for their second dose for six months, this was a moment of gratification. The first PCI camp in Paterwa proved to be successful and a total of 84 beneficiaries were vaccinated. Certificates were distributed to all those who were vaccinated. For those left out or due for a second dose, the team is preparing for another vaccination camp to be set up in the first week of May. With more visibility into the challenges and the determined team at hand, this one certainly will yield better results!

We appreciate the commendable efforts of Sandip Kumar (Village Mobilization Coordinator), Nitesh Kumar (Verifier), Chandan Kumar (Block Coordinator) and Deelip Poddar (District Coordinator) in bringing this village a step closer to 100% vaccination coverage.