Over 250 Attend AIF’s Virtual Fireside Chat on “Pregnant in a Pandemic?”


BOSTON–The American India Foundation held a virtual fireside chat on an important health topic, “Pregnant in a Pandemic?” AIF has been at the forefront of COVID-19 relief efforts in India. The event attracted over 250 attendees.

Tasneem Chipty, the 2020 AIF New England Gala Co-chair introduced the event, which explored the challenges presented by this pandemic through the lenses of science and art. She said, “One of the many lessons that we have learnt from this pandemic is that we all have a part to play.”

Dr. Sunita Pereira, Chair of AIF’s Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI) Steering Committee, hosted the discussion and introduced the panelists: Dr. Amit Chatterjee, the Director of MANSI and Padma Bhushan Awardee Dr. Neelam Kler. The discussion centered around the impact of the pandemic on pregnant mothers in both rural and urban India.

According to Dr. Kler, data does not suggest that pregnant women are at increased risk from COVID-19, and there is no evidence of vertical transmission from the mother to newborns.

However, as the focus of healthcare, both at hospitals and in the field, has diverted to COVID-19 patients and screenings, pregnant women are not receiving full antenatal and postnatal care they would normally receive. Additionally, pregnant women are reluctant to go to hospitals for deliveries, out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Limitations in economic opportunity and transportation that have arisen during the pandemic have also compromised access to healthcare. As a result, neonatal and maternal mortality has increased.

AIF’s MANSI program has addressed these challenges by training field workers in COVID-19 prevention and providing them a mobile platform that disseminates content on COVID protocols. Additionally, it has worked with local outreach programs to raise patient awareness about going to hospitals, or provided birth attendants to assist with deliveries and immunizations.

The fireside chat was followed by a unique artistic presentation titled, “Reflect, Renew, Rejuvenate,” specially created and choreographed for AIF. Using a combination of spoken word, music and dance, this riveting presentation reflected both human suffering and hope. The presentation was designed and conceptualized by Jayshree Bala Rajamani, founder of the Bharathakalai School of Dance, and Meena Subramanyam, founder of Natya Vidyalaya, along with renowned local artists Aparna Balaji, Founder/Director, Abhyaas; Mesma Belsaré, co-founder, Samväd; Shuchita Rao, Founder, RASA School of Music and Mouli Pal, Founder/Director, Upasana Odissi Inc.

The presentation started with a poem by Jayshree Bala Rajamani entitled, “I Ache,” about the plight of migrant workers during COVID-19. This was followed by music and dance performances by Aparna Balaji, Mesma Belsaré, Shuchita Rao, and Mouli Pal.

Concluding the artists’ presentation, Meena Subramanyam said, “We aspire to give voice to the voiceless and infuse hope – hope to inspire purpose and build trust through renewing our commitment to lend a helping hand to those in need of rejuvenation of their lives.”

Anu Chitrapu, an AIF supporter, said “The production was brilliant, truly artistic and touching at the same time. Kudos to everyone involved in creating something so riveting on an online platform. The plight of migrant workers is unimaginably sad, and it is everyone’s ache to fix. With support from all, AIF can address the root cause of this ache through programs designed by experts on the ground.”

Another long time supporter, Gita Iyer, remarked, “The conversation with Dr. Chatterjee and Dr. Kler was so very informative and thought-provoking. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the challenges in India, at so many levels. I was very impressed with DR. Chatterjee’s responses on how the AIF team approached and addressed many of the issues. And I loved the subsequent art presentation.”

The video was produced by Nabil Kapasi of Timeless Lens. Nalini Sharma, AIF New England Board, thanked everyone and invited attendees to get involved with AIF.

A recording of the event is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmWMDcm2xDQ&feature=youtu.be&t=8

Donations can be made at https://aif.org/donate/. Please include “Fireside Chat” in the Comments Box.

Learn more about AIF’s MANSI program at https://aif.org/our-work/public-health/

The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India, and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a suggestion from Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 6.7 million of India’s poor. Learn more at www.AIF.org


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