The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised India’s Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHA workers as one of the global leaders in healthcare delivery. ASHAs were honoured with WHO’s Director-General’s Global Health Leaders’ Award in an event that was live streamed globally.

“ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are more than 1 million female volunteers in India, honoured for the crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary healthcare services, as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a WHO release.

Since the very outset, ECHO India has focused on building up the capacity of ASHAs who are at the forefront of delivering public health services, especially across rural areas, where people struggle for access to basic healthcare services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of duties of ASHA workers involved functioning as frontline workers by creating awareness about infection prevention guidelines, identifying COVID-19 positive cases, helping people with home isolation guidelines, and carrying out vaccination drives, often at the risk of their own health and safety. Even during the pandemic, the role of ASHA workers was being the first and sometimes the only point of contact for the people in rural areas, liasoning between them and the healthcare system, while they continued to work in fragile settings. During the long months of lockdown, ASHA workers went from house to house to tend to patients selflessly.

ECHO India’s COVID-19 centric programmes like Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Vaccination Confidence and Advocacy Programme (VCAP) provided timely mentoring to hundreds of ASHAs across the country by providing them with the right knowledge and skills in their fight against the pandemic.

ECHO India has been working with the MoHFW and several state NHMs for capacity building of ASHAs that will not only give them critical healthcare knowledge but also help them in their career advancement in nursing and midwifery. As a mark of respect, ECHO India pays its deepest gratitude to all ASHAs for their contribution towards effective delivery of healthcare services even in the remotest corners of the country and for the tremendous sacrifices made by them while fighting on the frontline against COVID-19. ASHA workers form the bedrock of India’s healthcare system, especially in the rural areas where people face a number of challenges in getting equitable access to quality healthcare services.

ECHO India is working to ensure that ASHA workers, who represent the first line of healthcare, can access critical knowledge and career advancement opportunities.