Bala Vikasa has launched a massive intervention to contain the spread of misinformation and create awareness about COVID-19 in 500 villages of Telangana, with the help of the US Consulate General in Hyderabad.
Vulnerable rural communities are increasingly bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and seem to be potentially on the brink of massive pandemic outbreaks, due to the reverse migration from urban areas, and the acute lack of the right information and healthcare facilities.
Additionally, high levels of illiteracy and stagnant societal hierarchies have increased the probability of villages propagating social stigmas about the contagion. A massive spread in villages also poses a great threat to food security and the economic stability of the country.
Bala Vikasa is, therefore striving to strengthen villages with medically-approved, reliable, and authentic information to address and mitigate the pandemic – one, by combating misinformation in the villagers and two, by building the capacities of local NGOs to engage rural communities in conversations using digital channels given the restrictions on physical public gatherings.
“We want to ensure community preparedness to COVID-19 by enhancing awareness levels in our rural communities – so they can fight misinformation, control the spread, handle crisis and manage outbreaks, acquire health benefits and build immunity, and establish long-term crisis management plans,” says Bala Vikasa Executive Director Shoury Reddy Singareddy.
Bala Vikasa will be collecting authentic information from governments, international health agencies such as CDC/HHS, and creating IEC material in English and Telugu, which will be distributed to the rural communities through its grassroots operations, and also shared with NGOs and CBOs in the region.
To be implemented in 500 villages of Telangana over 6 months, a variety of IEC content, including videos, animations, and posters will be produced. Digital network groups will be created for the project villages to run awareness campaigns among the grassroots. While building basic awareness on frequent hand wash, mask usage, and social distancing, the IEC material will provide education on health management, emergencies, precautions, and advisories, to destroy the discriminative stigmas surrounding the pandemic and protect the social fabric of the rural communities.
Additionally, subject matter experts from India and the US will build the capacities of NGOs/CBOs and project teams through a series of interactive sessions.
Rahul Bharadwaj, Head of Bala Vikasa International Center, who is heading this project, says: “The training sessions will boost cooperation and collaboration among the stakeholders in India and the US. The capacity-building and sharing of information with other NGOs/CBOs has the potential to result in creating greater awareness on the COVID infection across other (non-project) geographies.”