Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) seeks to ensure health and well-being for all, at every stage of life. The goal addresses all major health priorities, including reproductive, maternal and child health; communicable, noncommunicable and environmental diseases; universal health coverage; and access to safe, effective, high quality, and affordable medicines and vaccines for all.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this goal has become even more critical. According to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN Secretariat, about 70 and 60 percent of the population of low and lower-middle income countries, respectively, comprises rural population and about 80 percent of people below poverty line live in rural areas. Therefore, the SDGs cannot be achieved without progress in rural development.

S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation), a rural development NGO in India, has been working in the rural communities with the vision to see every person leading a more secure, prosperous, and dignified life. To improve the quality of life of the rural communities in India, the foundation creates sustainable programs to address rural India’s most pressing needs through its programs on water, agriculture, local participation, Transform Lives one school at a time, and Outreach for Development. The foundation team’s focus on SDG 3 can be seen through the multifaceted approach it adopts to drive health and well-being in communities across eleven states in India where the foundation works.

Relief to Rehabilitation: Ensuring Good Health during Pandemic and Beyond

Sehgal Foundation’s support in response to COVID-19 focused on distribution of essential items such as soaps, sanitizers, masks, gloves, and thermal scanners to frontline workers and villagers, and food and nutrition kits to underserved communities.

Moving from relief to rehabilitation, the foundation activities and programs focused on building rural resilience with improved farm productivity (better agri technologies and practices), and increased water availability in villages (rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge). Schools were made safer for children with handwashing stations, toilets, and drinking water facilities; and community awareness of relief materials made available by central and state governments increased. Even now, the foundation is sensitizing the communities toward the new normal and promoting vaccination coverage.

In several interventions villages, the foundation has revived the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) anganwadi centers to become fully functional to serve the target population—children aged 0-6 years, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. In addition, the team builds capacities of health sanitation and nutrition committees working in the villages for effective implementation of health and hygiene works.

Training women as Swasthya Sakhis (Friends for Health) spreads health awareness in villages on preventive and remedial health, timely vaccination of children, and menstrual hygiene. These groups after training are assisted with tools and methodologies, including participatory games, like Ludo and snakes and ladders on themes such as nutrition and menstrual hygiene to promote fun-learning and better retention among villagers.

Read the full article about promoting health in rural communities by Arti M. Grover and Pooja O. Murada at Global Washington.