UNICEF has been providing support to communities in G North and M-East wards through technical assistance and capacity building of front line workers and officials, counselling, training and providing psycho-social support. For this, it has partnered with State Government, MCGM, Civil Society Organizations (CSO), Non-Government Organization (NGO) and other philanthropy bodies and individuals.
Starting April-May, UNICEF began work in the wards after partnering with local NGOs that are active in these areas to work on health, nutrition, WASH (water hygiene and sanitation), education and social issues within urban poor communities as part of the covid 19 containment strategy for G/North and M/East wards.
The Assistant Municipal Commissioners of these wards shared a list of communities in these wards that were most vulnerable. Mapping gaps in the availability of infrastructure including supplies, human resources and routine service delivery by civil society organizations (CSOs) is currently underway.
“The number of slums in both wards are high with major inhabitants being migrants hailing from a lower socio-economic strata and from outside the State. The need to have a multisectoral plan for urban slums emerges from the fact that the ground situation is so complex that addressing one area will not assure guaranteed results. It has been proven that all development activities are interwoven for instance; better health outcomes are directly dependent on nutrition and WASH (water, hygiene and sanitation) activities,” said Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Maharashtra.
Speaking of key observations emerging from the programme, Chandrasekar said that there is a need to develop plans for risk communication as per clusters and containment zones in order to keep communities informed in dynamic situations.
“There is also a need to work with local trusted leaders. Lastly, for mapping demand and supply resource gaps, public-private participation in community work is important. Policy advocacy needs to be situated in light of the larger climate change dialogue. There is every chance that the pandemic may go away but may re-emerge days or months later,” she said. Presently, we do not have disaster preparedness policy to tackle crises like the pandemic. Livelihood packages for migrants, building a formalized network of neglected segments in the city such as construction workers and to make them a part of city planning should be a part of the exercise, she added.
The urban health systems are under the Urban Development Department and have dual reporting to the State Health Department also. This dilutes the communication between both bodies. In the first few months of corona, urban primary health centres remained operational but were devoted to Covid. Due to this, routine child immunization saw a dip and home-deliveries increased, she added.