The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was heavily felt across India, however the effect on rural areas were profound. Compared to urban India, villages faced larger challenges accessing medical facilities and doctors, coupled with lower awareness of vaccines and the vaccination registration process. Travelling to the nearest health center also meant losing wages and restricted movement during lockdowns posed many additional challenges.
PayPal and the Common Services Centers (CSC) of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeITY) leveraged the vast network of CSC Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) to deliver services in an assisted model, earning the trust of villagers, and innovation to address the unique challenges faced in rural India. The partnership deployed 29 mobile vans to bring COVID-19 relief to villagers' doorsteps, which reduced travel and associated risks. The vans were equipped with oxygen cylinders to be used in emergencies. Cash withdrawal facilities were available and essential provisions were supplied to citizens through CSC e-stores at their doorstep. This was a boon to patients who were quarantined at home.
Trust was established by leveraging female VLEs who were trained as COVID-19 Awareness Ambassadors (CAB) to impart awareness around COVID-19 prevention recovery measures. The CSC Academy, with the help of PayPal, has trained over 50,000 VLEs, including 10,000 women, as COVID-19 Appropriate Behavior (CAB) Ambassadors to raise awareness about preventive measures against COVID-19.
Ms. Paliwal is one of the 50,000+ volunteer VLEs who drove over 3,000km across villages to spread awareness, provide supplies and access to telemedicine consultations. “We couldn't wait,” she said. “We knew that our one effort would transform lives if we took the initiative."
PayPal is also supporting CSC to set up five oxygen manufacturing plants in the cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Patna and Jaunpur.
Mobile vans deployed across India to provide supplies, education on COVID-19
appropriate behavior and vaccines; telemedicine consultations
According to a May report from the State Bank of India, rural India represents half of India’s population and approximately half of the country's COVID-19 cases. Many in rural India do not have access to a smart phone to register for vaccinations and in some cases were unaware of the defense that it could provide against the virus. They were unable to consult doctors on how to manage the virus. This posed a huge hurdle in the India Government’s efforts to fight the rage of the pandemic.
Tajmul Ansari, a VLE worker, has helped 80 to 100 people each day to attain vaccines by driving them to and from vaccination sites. Program organizers aim to enroll 2.5 million rural citizens into the vaccination program, many of whom do not have smart phones.