‘Our Lives Don’t Matter.’ India’s Female Community Health Workers Say the Government Is Failing to Protect Them From COVID-19

‘Our Lives Don’t Matter.’ India’s Female Community Health Workers Say the Government Is Failing to Protect Them From COVID-19

Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers protest against alleged negligence of their workforce by the government on August 9, 2020 in New Delhi. During the protest, ASHA workers demanded payment for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they have not been paid for the past few months.

Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers protest against alleged negligence of their workforce by the government on August 9, 2020 in New Delhi. During the protest, ASHA workers demanded payment for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they have not been paid for the past few months. Mohd Zakir—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Lakshmi Kuril woke up feeling unwell on April 27. A community healthcare worker in India’s western state of Maharashtra, Kuril, 35, had a pre-existing heart condition and the increased work and stress of fighting the COVID-19 surge that is ravaging India meant she often felt exhausted and lightheaded. But she didn’t let it stop her. “She wanted to be a doctor,” her husband Dinesh Kuril, tells TIME, but she grew up poor and “this was the closest she could get to that dream.”

After attending a meeting of fellow health workers, she felt worse and returned home—busying herself with housework and cooking dinner for her husband, her 15-year-old daughter and her 12-year-old son. As she stood to clear the dishes, she collapsed.

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