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In Uttar Pradesh, NGO Oxfam Fights Misinformation, Teaches Precautionary Measures To Protect Oneself From COVID-19

Uttar Pradesh: 

India's lockdown is now into its third week, and there is uncertainty about how things will progress if the lockdown does get lifted after April 14. One of the government's biggest challenges in the time of the pandemic has been the flow of correct and factual information on the diseases and measures that can be taken for prevention or to manage it. This is where NGO's like Oxfam - that has a stellar record of public service during disasters - and government agencies are collaborating to get things moving on the ground.

At Lucknow's Lav Kush Nagar, a settlement of over 1,000 homes with lower income group families - disseminating information is a big challenge for a combined team of Oxfam and their partners - the Poorvanchal Grameen Vikas Sansthan. Step one starts with loudspeaker announcements using a vehicle covered with posters related to information about COVID-19.

We will tell them how our rath is going to villages, communities and how we are making people aware. A lot of rumours are being spread about corona. Through this rath we go and tell the people how to undertake safety measures. You can see we are all wearing gloves and we tell them too that if you leave home please wear gloves and if you can wear masks that is good if you cannot then whatever you have at home, a dupatta, a gamcha, it can be used and washed, says Abhay Pandey, Media Manager at Poorvanchal Grameen Vikas Sansthan.

As a clutch of people look on from their doors and terraces - all of them are wearing mask, using a loudspeaker, Mr Pandey announces,

Please do not be scared of the corona disease, please protect yourself and others around you. There are three main symptoms of the coronavirus disease - one will be fever, cough and there is body pain. There can be diarrhoea with the fever too and you can feel breathless too. If you just have fever or just breathless this may not be corona but as soon as you see such symptoms you please call a helpline number and go to the closest CHC or government doctor.

The next step - going door to door inside colony and sensitising people at their doorsteps. This exercise is led by Dr. Bhanu Mall, the Chief Functionary at the Poorvanchal Grameen Vikas Sansthan. Dr Mall and his team walk to the middle of the colony and identify a house with six occupants and wide entry. All of these people are requested to stand with enough social distancing. A five-minute session on COVID-19, its symptoms, what to do if they occur and other aspects of the diseases follow.

Dr mall says disseminating information in cities is relatively easier , its a much tougher task in villages. He says,

The biggest thing is that there is no awareness in the villages. People are scared, they are hassled but they are not getting the right information. From the social media, they pick up half baked and confusing news but the correct technical information they are are not aware of.

The problem is the dissemination of the right information, people are not getting it in real-time. This vehicle is a medium to prepare people, no one knows what the long term impact will be - what kind of impact this global pandemic will create in the future in terms of livelihood, in terms of general well being, or any other kind of welfare the govt is trying to ensure or that civil society is advocating - these are going to get impacted in the long term, adds Mukunda Upadhyay, Programme Officer, Disaster Risk Reduction at Oxfam India.

But are these measures working on the ground. Akash Yadav is an Information Volunteer who lives in Lav Kush Nagar and he says all the sensitisation has really helped.

See we do not spread any rumors and if there is any misinformation being sent to us we block it. We do not report it because a lot of this misinformation is posted by people we know in this locality. But we certainly block such information . In our friend circles, we keep on emphasising the importance of not spreading misinformation. It is very important to counter misinformation; correct information is very important. Some people are spreading rumors of thousands dying in India from corona virus . Now that is misinformation, says Akash.

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