At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, nobody could have foreseen how long it would last, how quickly it would spread, and how many lives it would claim.
Two years have passed and in 2022, we are now witnessing the third wave due to the Omicron variant. The spread of the virus is so absolute that no one is assured protection. In such a scenario, being careful is no longer enough. One must also be aware.
Therefore, the Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation is working tirelessly in around 18 states where volunteers are going door to door to equip people with the right information about the virus. Their efforts, undertaken at great risk to themselves, have resulted in more than 5 million people becoming aware of the severity of the pandemic. Consequently, they have been able to take adequate protective measures.
In the Barabanki and Lucknow districts of Uttar Pradesh, 37 volunteers are busy spreading awareness to all strata of people in their nearest villages and urban slums. They are being exposed to information about the different variants and are being equipped to keep themselves and their families protected.
In Barabanki, ASHA workers like Anjani Devi, Puja Nigam, Nilam Devi and Nisha Devi are also part of DEF and the villagers hold their advice in great regard.
DEF’s 37 volunteers hold community meetings, meetings with children, create wall paintings, conduct village-wide announcements, and go door to door to give the villagers the information they need to keep themselves protected. Through WhatsApp messages, they are also able to spread UNICEF-verified information to areas they cannot physically visit. The spread of information is also facilitated by the RCCE Chatbot – a tool that debunks misinformation and COVID-related fake news, promotes sensitization about the pandemic and provides relevant information on appropriate behaviours. The overwhelming responses and queries recorded by the chatbot adequately shows how successful it has been. It also demonstrates that people are keen to absorb information and further highlights the importance of providing them with safe, accurate and relevant data.
As a result of the efforts of DEF’s volunteers, thousands of people have benefitted from knowing the correct information and having an increased awareness of health and safety measures.
Debaleena Bagchi is DEF’s communications consultant and writer.