The second wave of COVID-19 that hit India on March 26, 2021, proved to be far deadlier as it unexpectedly swept even the rural areas, unlike the first wave. Believing COVID was restricted to urban areas, the residents of Chakai block in Jamui District of Bihar, primarily migrant workers and daily-wage labourers feared the debilitating impact of lockdown on work opportunities more than anything. The situation worsened in mid-April with an overwhelming surge in Covid cases in Chakai a total of 4,737 cases from Jamui including 13 deaths in Chakai were reported by the government agencies as of April 20, 2021, leading to a state of complete chaos and terror among the residents.
Many of our community volunteers from the village were infected. Varied questions and misconceptions regarding the virus, testing and vaccination surfaced during a virtual meeting held with them. It is then that PRADAN staff working as frontline workers, realized the urgency of connecting with the villagers and using our community media platform, CHIRAG Vani, as a substantial bridge for the same.
What is CHIRAG Vani? A community helpline -number based initiative of PRADAN, CHIRAG Vani came into effect in April 2020 to connect with people in the rural Chakai block of Jamui district and provided a platform for the exchange of information. Its implementation model is based on learning-through-listening.
With most users from the first generation, a missed call-based technology is used for non-smartphone users with options like skip and feedback. For listening to the audio clips that are broadcast in the Santhali and Hindi languages, one has to give a missed call on 9278702369 from any basic phone. Automatically, the caller would receive a call back within a few minutes.
Although CHIRAG Vani primarily works on building a sustainable food system as a part of its flagship project CHIRAG but considering the need of the hour, its focus shifted towards dealing with the COVID-19 second wave.
A campaign for Corona Prevention specially dedicated to this cause was started from the 24th of April and run until the 15th of July in its first phase. The campaign was named “Corona Prevention Campaign- a Deep-dive”
Running under the guidance of expert health professionals, the campaign is working towards getting regular updates from Chakai and empowering people by generating awareness about the second wave of COVID-19 to help them stay safe.
The villagers are frequently updated on any relevant information about the availability of resources such as the nearest hospitals and testing and vaccination centres. Further, it is acting as a crucial link to connect the community with knowledgeable local doctors and other health professionals to clear any misconceptions and queries.
As per reports, in wake of ignorance among the rural community of Chakai, the multiple helplines kicked off by the government for accessing required services turned out to be futile. Our helpline programme has been designed in a way to overcome any such problems.
From the earlier experiences of migrants, many government officials have been following our program. The initiative is hence, proving to be extremely helpful in improving the efficacy of the grievance redressal mechanism.
❏ Updating the community about the COVID related situation in Chakai and Jamui district
❏ Providing the information on the availability of resources in the two districts and the nearby places (such as where is the nearest hospital, where is the testing centre, at which centre is the vaccine available).
❏ Providing correct information about COVID, testing and vaccination by doctors.
❏ Providing Helpline service during the crisis.
❏ Proving grievances redressal services to the migrants and vulnerable families.
FAQ (Two Episodes per week): FAQs are the audio capsule in the format of question answers. Sessions with the health professionals are in the following format.
❏ Short Audio Capsule (SAC): SACs are audio clips recorded in the voice of a single person. It focuses on giving a piece of information in a short period of time. Chakai and Jamui Updates will be given through this format.
❏ User-Generated Content (UGC): These are the audio clips that users generate by pressing button 3. All the queries and grievances will be part of UGC.
❏ Reporter Generated Content (RGC): RGC is the audio clips recorded by the volunteers. It is similar to news reporting. Volunteers are expected to give the local updates from their village.
❏ Call to Action (CTA): Call to action is the audio in the form of a question that influences the user to record UGCs.
❏ Out Bounding Dials (OBD): Call from CHIRAG Vani to all users once a week.[A4]
To promote this innovative campaign, staff members of PRADAN had to develop a strategy oriented towards the virtual model, as there was no scope for in-person meet-ups with a surging number of cases. The PRADAN team conducted regular Zoom meetings and phone calls with every CHIRAG Vani volunteer/mentor to gear up for the implementation of work. The volunteers also reached out to their relatives, friends and other connections to inform them about the CHIRAG Vani platform and the COVID awareness campaign. They also visited their own village households as well to spread the word and encourage families to use CHIRAG Vani. Further, the volunteers are currently, in the process of collecting the contact numbers to increase the OBDs.
As per the data collected, it was observed that a total of 505 calls were made within a week from 17- May 23 2021 by 346 different callers. The average call duration of 5.83 minutes indicates that the callers have been closely following the COVID awareness programs, the first step to deal with the situations.
1. "कोरोना से बचाव के लिए हम लोग मास्क पहनते हैं ओर नाक मुंह को ढांकते हैं लेकिन कान खुला रहता है तो क्या कान के रास्ते से कोरोना अंदर घुस सकता है?" To protect against corona, we wear masks and cover the nose and mouth, but if the ear is open, can the corona enter through the ear?
2. "क्या बच्चे भी कोवीड 19 का वैक्सीन ले सकते हैंॽ "Can children also get the COVID-19 vaccine?
3. "किसी को शुगर, बी.पी., है लकवा की शिकायत है, तो वो भी वैक्सीन ले सकते है?"' Can people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other disease take the vaccine?
4. "आगर हम वैक्सीन लिए और बुखार होने पर हम पेरासिटामोल के अलावा दूसरी दवाई लिए तो क्या होगा?" What would happen if we take medicine other than paracetamol after having a fever post-vaccination?
5. "होड़मो रे[A5] अ रुवा हासु ,खुअ मंदा आजार ताहेन खान बेसोअ लागीद पेरासिटामोल 325mg tablets जोम लेखान नापाया से पेरासिटामोल 500mg tablets गानोअ" (What is the dosage of the medicine. Is it 500mg or 335mg. How do we know?)
Overall, CHIRAG Vani has proved quite effective to reinforce the knowledge repository and ameliorate the quality of implementation and the approaches undertaken. This, in turn, is facilitating to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of the community.
Aligning with our basic principle of "from the people, by the people and to the people" in terms of democratic processes of knowledge generation and exchange, our organization has been working with diverse stakeholders. This includes women self-help groups, students, youth, medical staff and government officials to ensure smooth dissemination of COVID-oriented information.
In the current situation, it is strengthening the knowledge repository, improving the quality of implementation and ongoing approaches and hence is improving the wellbeing of people and their quality of life.
Currently, at the local level, we are working with a diverse range of people and communities such as groups of women, youths and students as well as medical staff, Govt officials in order to generate and share knowledge on COVID Awareness. And to follow our basic principle of democratic processes of knowledge generation and exchange around or in other words, "from the people, by the people and to the people,"