Neeta Kashid and her fellow Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in India are on the front lines of healthcare in rural communities, providing essential services to women and children. Kashid’s work stretches across a multitude of tasks, from handling emergencies and supporting maternal and neonatal care to conducting surveys and participating in vaccination campaigns.
While these community health workers play a vital role in public health, they often earn less than minimum wage. This led Kashid and her colleagues to go on strike last year, demanding better pay and labor benefits. They are part of an Indian Government program that connects rural communities with the public health system, but their work is not remunerated to the extent it should be.
The contribution of these health workers is widespread, as they work to reduce maternal and infant mortality and tackle various public health issues. According to a 2022 report by Women in Global Health, there are six million unpaid or underpaid female healthcare workers around the world, resulting in exploitation that deserves condemnation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the invaluable work of these community health workers, who are underpaid and overworked, especially in poorer countries. They have endured physical attacks and high levels of stress during their work, with limited support from the very communities they serve.
The program in India that initially aimed to tackle child mortality has evolved over the years, increasing the responsibilities and workload of ASHAs. As they work tirelessly to prevent the spread of diseases and provide healthcare services, they face emotional stress and financial hardships, disproving the notion that their work should remain unpaid due to its spiritual nature.
It’s time for these dedicated workers to receive fair compensation for their invaluable service, a transport to ensure that they can continue to provide essential care to their communities without worrying about their own financial survival. These community health workers deserve to be recognized and remunerated for the tremendous contribution they make to public health.