International Nurses Day is celebrated every year on May 12 – the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. Observed to mark the contributions that nurses make to society, the theme this year is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reinforced its commitment towards enabling gender equality across sectors by designing and implementing intervention research which has been recently conducted with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The research identified action-oriented solution(s) to support and improve the wellbeing of female frontline health workers (FFHW)’ while enhancing their efficiency on field. Through this study, JICA intended to generate critical insights for practitioners, policy makers and programme implementers on the need, options, and ways to ensure gender equity and justice in programme delivery in a post COVID-19 developmental paradigm.
The overall objective of the study was to equip stakeholders with an understanding of how an unprecedented crisis like the pandemic has impacted Female Frontline Healthcare Workers (FFHCWs). It also aimed at finding ways to resolving the psychosocial issues resulting out of such situations, presently and in the future. Based on the findings of the research, JICA prepared and conducted structured training modules for FFHCWs, their family members and departmental supervisors to spread awareness on key issues. The modules focused on improving the knowledge and skills of the FHWs to address biased gender norms and stigma that has aggravated their work and performance during the pandemic.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr SAITO Mitsunori, Chief Representative, JICA India, said, “Nurses have suffered tremendously throughout the pandemic. It is said that they have been unnecessarily exposed to the virus, faced attacks from the public, suffered from extreme workloads, and continue to be undervalued. I believe further investment in the health workforce by governments will make India’s health systems more resilient and effective. There is no health without a health workforce!”
The spread of COVID-19 since its outbreak in December 2019 has led to devastating loss of lives, as well as economic and social impact. Amidst the challenges posed by this, the backbone of management and control of the burden of death and disease has been led by Medical Health Workers (MHWs). The MHWs have carried a heavy burden both mentally and physically while dealing with pandemic, especially during the peak waves. Previous pandemic experiences have highlighted that those on the frontline are at a high risk of infection, psychological distress, and physical burnout. Contributing factors include an increasing burden of confirmed and suspected cases, overwhelming workload, resource constraints including manpower and supplies, widespread media coverage, and feelings of being inadequately supported.
JICA’s study found that frontline workers and other healthcare workers were diverted towards COVID-19 testing, tracing and management. Due to this many immunization sessions were held without the presence of Community Frontline Workers. Further, risk of COVID coupled with slow revival of outreach services led to poor attendance of beneficiaries during child immunization sessions Disruption in routine services was gleaned through primary data due to doctors being rerouted to Covid care as well.
JICA has aligned its health sector policy to that of the Government of India’s strategy and programs, which is in recent years to build a self-reliant and healthy India. JICA’s policy is to invest towards infrastructure development with capacity building through technical partnerships in various medical fields, which contributes to JICA’s global Initiative for Global Health and Medicine and to strengthening health and medical systems in developing countries to achieve “Human Security 2.0” and “UHC”. JICA continues to focus on system strengthening for management of non-communicable diseases, control the spread of infectious diseases and improve maternal and child health. Besides the above, it prioritizes support to emergency response, hospital management and setting up comprehensive referral system to enhance access to quality health care services.
JICA’s support through Official Development Assistance loans and technical cooperation to central and state governments is based on need-based priorities and is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3- ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. Due to the pandemic, importance of health sector in India has increased significantly and it is prioritized sector for JICA’s operation too. JICA views sustained engagement with the Government of India and state governments as a key to build a strong health sector in India with resilient and robust system and dynamic policies and programs for overall well-being JICA also believes the collaboration with private sector will be a strong driving force in this sector to tackle the huge and diverse challenges with technology and innovations.
JICA strongly believes that good quality and improved access to health services will increase the pace of development of a country, socially and economically. JICA also commits to develop projects towards benefiting women and contribute to the achievement of gender equality for a sustainable future for India.