Village Health Nurses (VHN) T. Chennammal and C. Janaki and their young colleague A. Sasi Rekha were never far away from their home, Jawadhu Hills. They travel together to the two local Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in the hillock where they have been working for a decade. They check pregnant women in their thatched houses; administer polio drops to the children in the hamlets and screen elders for their age-related illnesses. They are household names in the hills.
Their routine has hardly changed, even during the pandemic. From Monday, they have been visiting houses in these remote villages by foot with a common purpose of vaccinating all residents aged 18 years and above against COVID-19. On an average, 200 residents in these tribal hamlets are being vaccinated every day for the first time. “We belong to the same tribal (Mayalali) community of residents in the hillock. It bonds us. It also makes them (residents) trust us,” says 52-year-old T. Chennammal, the oldest among the three VHNs in the hills.
Nurse Chennammal belongs to Nellivasal Nadu, one of the 32 villages in the hills that comes under Tirupattur district, around 30 km from the hillock. Her colleagues — Janaki and Sasi Rekha — are not far away from her village as they reside in the neighbouring Pudhur Nadu and Kombai villages. Along with a health team led by two doctors, R. Ramesh and V. Venketaraman, the nurses walk miles on the rugged terrain, as vehicles find it difficult to negotiate narrow bends and uneven pathways in the villages on the hillock. They administer vaccines for plantation workers, traders, village elders and farmers in the hillock covering at least two villages every day. Of the total population of 32,000 residents, district health officials said that around 15,000 residents are eligible for vaccination. “By the end of this month, we will vaccinate around 2,000 residents in at least nine villages in the hillock. We will cover more hamlets in the coming weeks,” says T.R. Senthil, Deputy Director (Health), Tirupattur.
It was on last Saturday at the joint meeting organised by the Tirupattur district administration with health officials that sub collector P. Alarmelmangai gave detailed guidelines to intensify the vaccination drive on the Jawadhu Hills to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Subsequently, separate health teams were formed to create awareness on the drive among the tribal communities. The district administration also roped 54 ASHA workers, who have been working in these villages, for the vaccination drive.