In Kolkata, local youth spearhead campaign to fight the coronavirus

By Global Fund for Children | April 17, 2020 | South Asia | Youth Empowerment

Editor’s note: The blog was adapted from a photo essay by Prayasam.

Before the coronavirus pandemic forced much of India into lockdown, young leaders from Prayasam launched an intensive campaign to combat COVID-19 in the crowded streets of Kolkata.

With the help of Prayasam’s research team, the youth first studied the disease and learned how to prevent transmission. They then developed a plan for dispelling myths in the community and equipping their families and neighbors with prevention techniques.

After training with Prayasam, Kolkata youth distributed information on how to prevent COVID-19. © Prayasam

This wasn’t the first time these young leaders had organized a health awareness campaign. Known as Area Health Minders, they’ve worked together with Prayasam to survey their neighborhoods and gather critical data about their communities’ health needs, including vaccinations and clean water access.

Prayasam, a GFC alumni partner, has been internationally recognized for its Area Health Minders model, which empowers young people to improve health standards and drive positive change in their communities.

As the likelihood of a pandemic grew, they were already equipped to thoroughly and quickly distribute health information to some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable slums. The Area Health Minders developed multiple strategies to build community awareness of COVID-19.

Area Health Minders painted communicative murals with prevention techniques. © Prayasam

Communicative graffiti provide information about handwashing, social distancing, symptoms of COVID-19, and more. Area Health Minders helped to develop and paint the graffiti in all 15 areas where Prayasam works.

They also visited every street and alley in the community, sharing key information about the new disease and conducting some 450 workshops to teach effective handwashing techniques.

Area Health Minders disbursed throughout the community to conduct handwashing workshops. © Prayasam

Prayasam’s youth also worked with the municipal government to develop awareness posters on preventative measures. They then enlisted the help of local mothers to post them throughout their neighborhoods.

Working by flashlight, local mothers helped distribute posters throughout their Kolkata neighborhoods. © Prayasam

Together, these initiatives reached more than 10,000 people living in Kolkata’s slums.

Aman Mukhiya, leader of the Combat COVID-19 campaign, shared, “As a result of the campaign, people not only have proper information now but are also adopting the basic hygiene habit out of fear of contracting the disease.”

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