Building Village Resilience Against Covid-19 Through Community Engagement
Rural community comprises over 70% of the State’s total population. In the face of the pandemic, rural community is rendered most vulnerable due to lack of Covid-19 awareness, unpreparedness to pandemics, undernutrition, weak public health infrastructure and services. Failure to empower the rural communities could pose considerable risk which may pose uncontainable.
Empowered community is the key to public health and is central in the fight against epidemics and pandemics. This calls for the rural communities to be better prepared and equipped through prioritised community-led initiatives and participation. In this backdrop, the Nagaland State Rural Livelihoods (NSRLM) in solidarity with the State Rural Livelihoods Missions under DAY-NRLM across the country have been fostering rural community participation from 1245 villages across the State in combating the spread of the virus through its strong Self-Help Group (SHG) Network by facilitating large-scale ‘behavioural change’ measures like maintaining physical distancing, promoting hand hygiene, cough etiquette and adhering to lockdown SOPs to curb the spread of community transmission since the first wave. The Self Help Groups (SHGs) had also initiated stitching of face masks and home-made sanitisers for the vulnerable members and frontline workers, installation of Bamboo Pole Hand Wash Stations in strategic public places in the villages towards fostering hand hygiene, facilitating access to PDS for vulnerable households, distributing potable water and firewood to the elderly and PWDs, support in maintaining quarantine centres, providing free meals and rations to quarantine centers and families affected by Covid-19, and connecting agri-produce to local markets. These initiatives continue to this day.
As the second wave of pandemic which is more devastating and fatal than the first hits the State and shifts dangerously to the rural areas, it is critical to refocus on rural community’s response at the village level through a system of collective participation, leadership and local governance in the control and mitigation of the spread of pandemic. Accordingly, the State Mission have built on and scaled the efforts of community participation towards preparedness, response and resilience to the second wave of the pandemic through creating awareness on Covid-19 Vaccine awareness, Appropriate Behaviour, Health Seeking Behaviour, and Immunity Building Measures to over 10290 rural households.
Towards collective efforts, convergence approach involving RD Department, Health & Family Welfare Department, and Social Welfare Department has also been actively engaging the SHGs, ASHA workers and Anganwadi Workers towards formation of Village Surveillance Team (VST) for effective monitoring and referral of persons with Influenza Like Illness (ILI). And facilitating vulnerable community members such as elderly and PWDs for vaccination in coordination with ASHA. This effort is further strengthened through conscious capacity building and training of other key community stakeholders like church leaders, village council members, student bodies, and other CBOs. 648 VST have been instituted till date.
To ensure universal coverage for Covid-19 vaccination in Nagaland, NSRLM has been training its community cadres, the church leaders and teachers on “Management of Mild COVID-19 Symptoms at Home”. Relevant IEC materials (print and audio-visual) have been customised by NSRLM and further translated into local dialects by the community cadres for wider dissemination at household level.
The aforementioned activities and progress during the second wave are being closely monitored daily by the State Level Covid War Room (https://covid19.nagaland.gov.in).
Focus on putting the rural community participation and involvement at the centre of Covid-19 control strategy could play a key role in planning village-level rapid actions towards effective control and mitigation of the virus spread in collaboration with concerned local bodies (VCs, Student Bodies, Churches, and other CBOs).
Nagaland State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Department of Rural Development.