Bolstering fight against COVID-19

Looking into the current situation, Child in Need Institute (CINI) focusses on a hybrid approach, blending both online and offline strategies, to reach out to communities

Published on July 29, 2020 at 3:02 am

Updated on January 26, 2021 at 06:18 am

An awareness session on COVID-19 in progress.

Dr Samir Narayan Chaudhuri

The year 2020 has proved to be a watershed globally. The world today is facing a global public health crisis, a pandemic of unique nature with no immediate cure in sight and bracing itself for a marked change in living and working conditions. This “new normal” needs to be factored in as it will impact our lives, forever. With no vaccine and proven drug therapy for COVID-19 till date, we all have to change our lives and adapt to beat the pandemic spread.

It is common knowledge now, that we have to live with the virus for the next 6 months to a year, meantime protecting ourselves from being infected by building up our immunity and focus on strategies to deliver through our mission of building Child-Friendly Communities. Child in Need Institute (CINI) reaches out to the communities in need (around 7 million population) in four states of West Bengal (all 23 rural districts and Kolkata and Siliguri Municipal Corporations), Jharkhand (all 24 rural districts and Ranchi Municipal Corporation), Assam (in three districts of Dhubri, Goalpara and Golaghat) and Odisha (in eight districts of Koraput, Angul, Bhubaneswar, Raigada, Nabrangpur, Keonjhar, Khurda and Mayurbhanj). So far as delivery of the programmes is concerned, CINI is all set to adapt to the situation and shift the programme delivery modes under all its programme verticals of Education, Protection, Health, Nutrition and Adolescent initiatives.
Looking into the current situation, a “hybrid” approach, blending both online and offline strategies have been adopted to reach out to communities. The adaptations that are being taken across CINI programmes include:

  • Telephonic surveys conducted with the target groups and service providers, to assess the implementation status of various government schemes and services at the field level. Understand challenges faced during lockdown and scope of alternative education support other than physical learning centre based education. Gaps identified and taken up with appropriate authorities.
  • Regular home visits to provide education support to individual children by centre teachers taking precautions (gloves, face masks etc.), equipped with counselling cards, containing messages for COVID and other related issues are conducted. The effort is also being made to address issues of stigmatization and equipping frontline workers with messages which can be used to address the concerns of parents and caregivers.
  • Regular awareness generation at the market/public places, Anganwadi centres, VHSNDs and also at the community level – on maintaining social and physical distancing. Spreading message on the importance of safety measures through IECs in continuous mode. Wall writing/Posters in different key locations and public institutions in the villages on basic health messaging for prevention of COVID-19. Digital IEC contents for awareness building in the community have been developed for dissemination through Front Line Workers (FLWs).
  • WhatsApp groups platforms are being utilised to conduct short sensitization programmes for COVID- 19 along with the discussion on pregnancy care, nutrition, anaemia, IFA, menstrual hygiene management and other safety measures. Information through images and text are being shared regularly in the groups in vernacular languages. The same WhatsApp groups are discussing how to improve on pedagogy and TLMs in this difficult time.
  • Constant follow up (through telephone/skype) with the frontline workers like ASHA, AWW, ANMs and participating in various block/district level review/convergent online meetings and follow-ups with target group members over the telephone and addressing issues highlighted by them through proper channel.
  • Using Zoom platform for capacity building of community members, duty- bearers on COVID-19 and its impact on health nutrition, education and protection situation. Zoom meetings are being utilised to support various government department in developing micro-plan for the outreach services, especially for health and nutrition.
  • The local self-government in Jharkhand was sensitised on the formation of Vigilance Committees at various levels and their roles and responsibilities in the current context.
  • Awareness building and facilitation support at service delivery points like VHNDs, Health Sub-Centres etc. with proper precaution is being provided.
  • Through advocacy initiatives with various government departments, many services like IFA, sanitary napkins, ART/medicines have been mobilised which was found to be a gap in services. Distressed families were linked to various services like PDS shops in their areas to get their entitled ration.
  • District level task force is created to provide information and necessary actions on the crisis situation
  • Community spaces identified for providing educational support to children in small batches (4 to 10 children per batch maintaining social distancing) if and when parents are agreeable.
  • Centre teachers prepared TLM and worksheets as per subjects and academic competency for sharing with children either by individual home visit or during teaching in batches. Online class sessions have been initiated in some locations.
  • Children in remote villages, where a home visit is not possible during lockdown have been contacted through the telephonic session for providing educational support. Of course, internet connectivity and availability of smartphones are challenges.
  • Deaf and mute children along with their parents/family members have been equipped to access digital systems for the continuation of education. This is being done in Kolkata slums.
  • Education programme team developed various video-based micro-courses, worksheets, e-notes etc. to disseminate through online platforms like – Zoom meeting, Google Meet etc. to children for enhanced engagement.
  • Facilitating meetings of Village Level Child Protection Committee, divided in small batches (of max 5) and follow up discussions being done to address the growing incidences of violence against children.
  • Support provided to FLWs in the identification of migrant families and mobilised to get them enrolled into Government of West Bengal migrant worker relief scheme “SneherParash” and other related services.
  • Communicating with children (in small groups) with the agenda of preventing child trafficking and child marriage, sensitizing the parents on the risks of trafficking in the community.
  • Continuation of essential services like the rescue of victimized and at-risk children through Childline-1098 service, Child Care Institutional services (CCI) for children in CINI’s Short Stay Homes and Open Shelters, restoration of the missing/trafficked children back to their families through District Child Protection Unit, Child Welfare Committee, Police and Childline, Counselling sessions for the children residing in the Homes through an online platform.
  • An operational framework to minimize the distress of children stranded in the CCIs and taking them back to their families has been developed considering the Supreme Court Order, Central and State directives on COVID -19 for inmates in CCIs, the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and CINI’s response mechanism adopted in the institutional CCIs.
  • CINI’s Child Safeguarding Policy was revised including COVID-19 response components.
  • Teenline- the CINI initiative to help the young population in stress, mental or otherwise, operated continuously with queries on COVID 19 and how to cope with the concerns related to this pandemic. Teenline also organised group counselling sessions on stress management.
  • “Creative Lockdown” campaigns are being conducted where children are being encouraged to share their thoughts through artwork, poetry, prose, video clips etc. To give a voice to the experiences and emotional transformation of the community, CINI Assam came out with a Community Magazine which is a compilation of experience sharing of adolescents and FLWs.
  • In the adolescent RKSK programme 2020- 2021, NHM Assam has adopted CINI’s methodology to conduct weekly peer sessions. So now there will a mechanism where adolescents will discuss on SRHR issues weekly and CINI Assam will provide technical support.

Masks being given away to locals in Assam.

Post COVID-19, the war’s not over for CINI. Major lessons from around the world point to the fact that COVID-19 is going to stay for a while. That needs lifestyle change in our daily habits, eating a healthy diet, proper hygiene maintenance and not falling into the vicious cycle of malnutrition and infection. Improved immunity, frequent hand washing and physical distancing would be of supreme importance in the coming days. And CINI’s experience in the management of child malnutrition for the last four-and-half decades points to the fact that proper diet for protein-energy nutrition, supplemented with micronutrient intake of essential vitamins and minerals are the strategies that could boost immunity in the growing years and protect them from the pandemic. For a strategy to curb the onset of malnutrition among children (in the post-COVID, post-starvation scenario), CINI has planned to complement the dietary gap in children and women with Nutrimix to around 10,000 children and adolescents for at least coming three months (starting in June-July), in six most vulnerable communities identified in its project locations in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam. In this project CINI Method towards building Child-Friendly Communities where apart from Health and Nutrition, improved Child Protection and Education outputs will also be tracked.

In the coming days, CINI will work towards:

  1. Prevent the further spread of the virus (following the norms laid down by the government), impart proper knowledge on prevention modes, remove fear and anxiety in the community through counselling support. CINI’s frontline teams will closely work with government front line workers to ensure the same.
  2. Work closely in tandem with the government to facilitate the linkage with the relevant programmes and schemes for the communities in need and distress.
  3. CINI’s nutrition and health counselling through front line workers will continue. For the purpose, project teams are being trained online to gear up the use of technology and digital platforms. This will be complemented by working with elected representatives and SHGs to ensure the functioning of AWCs, the supply of supplementary nutrition wherever required for children/pregnant/lactating women, promotion of mid-day meal supply for school children and treatment of common ailments, especially during the monsoon and ensure the proper functioning of WASH facilities.
  4. Improve and build-upon the repository for on-line education TLMs, increase the access of children for the developed tools (through software/hardware system readiness, parents’ counselling, teachers’ training), and also preventing child abuse, early marriage and trafficking in these distressing times.
  5. Activate local committees to prevent various forms of abuse to children including child labour, early marriage and trafficking.
  6. Promote linkage towards improved access to economic/food-relief/low-cost housing/livelihood packages provided by the government.

We seek support from all those who care, to change lives and beat the COVID 19 pandemic.

Dr Samir Narayan Chaudhuri, Secretary and Founder Director, CINI, has been committed to treating and preventing malnutrition in children.

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