Using creative ways to spread awareness on COVID-19 and social distancing in urban slums of Vijayawada

NEW DELHI, APRIL 16. Vijayawada is in lockdown due to COVID-19 like the rest of the country with complete seal clamped in some municipal divisions. The pandemic has brought uncertainty, panic and stress among the people, especially those living in the urban slums.

The George Institute India has been working to improve health outreach services, in these slums for the past two years with the help of field staff selected from amongst those who live in these slums. During the COVID pandemic, the George Institute staff have been engaging in community awareness by using creative media like comics, posters and drawings/illustrations.  

“We trained women and youth in these slums in the art of using comics for community awareness. They have now been using these skills to come up with innovative education materials to create awareness on COVID-19 among the communities,” says Keerthi Danthuri, Research Assistant, The George Institute India.         

The George Institute’s field staff are using simple, easy to understand and effective visual illustrations to provide necessary information on COVID-19 and educate the people on the importance of preventive and protective methods to tackle this disease. “It becomes even more important to provide the right information about COVID-19 to these communities as a plethora of fake news and information is in circulation, which incites uncalled panic and fear,” says Keerthi.  

These Information, Education and Communication (IEC) illustrations include placards, comics and posters. All these illustrations are handmade with content written in Telugu for ease of understanding. The messaging in these materials include symptoms of COVID-19, preventive practices like staying at home, practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing, and other crucial advisories issued by the government.

The field staff displayed these comics and illustrations to the community members and put up posters in easily visible locations thereby reinstating the messaging ‘safety is priority and knowledge is power in our battle against COVID-19’. Additionally, the field staff demonstrated handwashing techniques and the significance of wearing mouth-mask to the people in the community.

The field staff are also using telephonic conference calls to connect with ASHA workers for training purposes. The tele-trainings are on proctective measures to be ensured by the people for self care while dealing with communities and on dealing with queries of the people liviing in these slums during such challenging times.

“Deploying ASHA workers to promote awareness and prevention measures in these urban slum communities increases the level of acceptance towards screening for COVID-19. We are in constant contact with the district and state health authorities in Vijayawada in charge of COVID-19 interventions to participate along with the Government in some of the interventions,” says D Praveen, Head, Primary Health care, George Institute India.