A campaign to increase COVID-19 related awareness in communities

CONTEXT

April 2021 saw an all-India surge in Covid-19 infections owing to a devastating and rapidly spreading second wave. The surge is different from last year’s peak in many ways. The scale of the catastrophe, in the form of infections, deaths, and loss has surpassed what we saw in the first wave. Needless to say, every individual and family in the country is coping with anxiety, fear and helplessness. For more than a year now, the country has been battling the virus. Unlike the initial days, now much more is known about how to prevent COVID-19, about symptoms to monitor, and different ways of tackling the infection. However, this also comes with its own set of challenges. False news, rumours, myths and misinformation often get shared at an alarming rate, exacerbating stress and angst, and have the potential to undo the measures undertaken by the country to combat the virus. Over the past year, Pratham has worked extensively to deal with the impact of school closures and disrupted lives by bringing engaging activities and new learning opportunities to children and youth. Our 2020 campaign was called “Karona Thodi Masti Thodi Padhai”. For the past year, we have worked effectively to reach children, families and communities; by combining our pre-existing community structures with our digital resources. Messages were sent via phone (SMS and WhatsApp), and phone calls were made to families for feedback and follow up. Using digital technologies – old and new, over the last twelve months, we were able to build a robust network of participants and learners across 12,000 rural and urban communities and 600 partner organizations. Fourteen state governments used our content and messaging.

WHAT IS KARONA APNI SURAKSHA?

Karona Apni Suraksha is Pratham’s current communication initiative about COVID-19. It is focused on ensuring delivery of accurate, essential and verified information related to COVID-19 in different regional languages in a form that is easy to understand and use. For this, multiple delivery channels (SMS, WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube and phone calls) and two-way communication methods are being used. This is important keeping in mind that most of these communities are low-tech and under-resourced, where availability of such crucial information is scarce. The objectives of this campaign include (a) ensuring information reaches the last mile and (b) establishing an open and two-way channel of communication so that information can be discussed, and questions clarified. The campaign is being conducted in 11 languages. Content includes health-awareness information, busting myths around the virus, its causes and consequences, and details of why vaccination is essential and dealing with misconceptions about vaccination. Wherever possible, activities to engage children are also being planned. It is our hope that such efforts can not only reach the last mile but also contribute in equipping families and communities to cope with current and future waves. Pratham is leveraging its existing community relations to disseminate a wide array of content regarding COVID-19 to over 20,000 communities. At the same time, the entire communication package is also available freely to other partners and organizations.

CONTENT AND DELIVERY

Pratham is creating and curating a repository of resources, such as videos, audios, posters, PDFs and SMS messages to spread relevant, reliable, easy to use and easy to understand information for families and communities. These resources are either created by Pratham, or curated in partnership with other organizations such as Noora Health, Public Health Karona Apni Suraksha Pratham Education Foundation 2 Foundation of India (PHFI), Abhivyakti, Mukta Charitable Foundation, Menstrupedia etc. that specialize in health-related content. Resources are being curated from reliable sources, such as WHO, Stanford Medicine, Government of India, etc. To begin with, a campaign of messages spanning 6 weeks has been planned. Discussions are underway for how to continue the campaign through the year. The content is a mix of text, audio, video and posters, all of which are easily shareable. SMS versions of messages will go to those who do not have smartphones. Phone calls and group calls (video, zoom, webinars and conference calls) will be used for discussion and clarifications. Here is an example of the first 6 weeks message content and delivery:

Weekly theme Topic
Introduction + Prevention Introduction message
Hand Wash
Mask Making - Stitched and unstitched
Prevention + Home
Management
Social Distancing
Returning Home
How to clean vegetables and fruits?
Home Care Myth Buster
Taking care of the sick at home
Cleaning Surfaces at home
Testing at home Myth Buster
Correct use of Pulse oximeter
How to check the temperature
Vaccination Myth buster (vaccination)
How does Vaccination work
Vaccination in India
Vaccination Myth busters (Vaccination)
Vaccination - How to register?
Vaccination - Side Effects

We are sending messages with weekly activities and planning discussions with participants. WhatsApp messages go every alternate day; SMS messages go daily. Messages are sent to Pratham teams in different states, who then share the capsules further with volunteers, parents and community stakeholders. Virtual sessions and follow-up calls are facilitated by Pratham team members to establish an open two-way communication platform for the communities so that parents and community members can share concerns and queries. YouTube live sessions are also planned, with health experts sharing essential information, and clarifying any misconceptions.

All digital content for the campaign is produced by Pratham-Shah Family PraDigi Innovation Centre.

To beat the pandemic, we must make a concerted effort to beat the infodemic as well. It is crucial that people have access to consolidated, verified and contextualized information, which they can utilize to make better decisions and raise awareness in their surroundings, as well. The Karona Apni Suraksha campaign is Pratham’s effort to enable communities and families to cope better with the pandemic.

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